Mexico, just south of the United States, is a fantastic country for tourists. There are many tourist attractions in Mexico – stunning beaches, ancient Mayan civilization, ruins of the Aztec empire, nightlife, swamps, deserts, forests, high alpine vegetation, adventures, unique culture, many UNESCO World Heritage sites, and great food. In this Mexico travel guide, we will introduce you to the best of the country. Find out the best places to visit in Mexico, the best time to visit, climate, and we will also show you how to save money.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Mexico received 35 million visitors in 2017, making the country the world’s 8th most popular country for tourists. Germany ranked 7th, while Thailand came in at 9th.
Mexico is the largest country in Central America. It is about three times as large as Texas. Mexico is shaped roughly like a wedge, widest in the north and tapering to the narrow Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the south.
Mexico – Quick Facts
- Official Name – Estados Únidos Mexicanos (United Mexican States).
- 14th largest country – Mexico is the 14th largest country in the world by total area.
- The world’s largest pyramid – The Great Pyramid of Cholula in Mexico is the largest pyramid in the world.
- Chichen Itza Pyramid – This is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
- National Language – Spanish.
- Jaguar, the largest wildcat in North America, can be found in Mexico’s southern jungles.
- World’s Smallest Dog – Chihuahua, the smallest dog, is named for a Mexican state.
- The border between Mexico and the United States is the second-largest border in the world.
- Mexico is second only to Brazil in the number of Catholic citizens.
- Mexico is located in the ‘Ring of Fire’, one of the earth’s most violent earthquake and volcano zones.
- Mexico is home to a very rare rabbit. The ‘volcano rabbit’ lives near Mexican volcanoes.
- Mexico introduced chocolate, corn, and chilies to the world.
Mexico Travel Guide – Climate
The climate of Mexico is highly varied as the Tropic of Cancer divides the country into temperate and tropical zones. North of the twenty-fourth parallel, the country sees lower temperatures in the winter. South of the twenty-fourth parallel, temperatures are fairly constant throughout the year. North Mexico generally receives less precipitation than the south.
|The south, both coastal plains and the Yucatán Peninsula, have a yearly median temperature between 24 and 28 °C (75.2 and 82.4 °F). Temperatures here remain high throughout the year.||Low-lying areas north of the 24th parallel of the country are hot and humid in the summer. You will have lower yearly temperature averages in the winter season.|
|Towns and cities south of the 24th parallel have constant, pleasant temperatures throughout the year. Northerly locations see seasonal variations.||At 2,300 meters (7,546 ft), Mexico City has a yearly median temperature of 15 °C (59 °F) with pleasant summers and mild winters. Comfortable for tourists and residents.|
|Rainfall varies widely both by location and season. The Baja California Peninsula has arid or semi-arid conditions.||Parts of the northern Altiplano, highlands, and high peaks in the Sierra Madres receive snow.|
|Rainy season from June to mid-October. February and July are the driest and wettest months.||Mexico is in the hurricane belt. Both coasts see storms from June to November. Hurricanes on the Pacific coast are often less violent.|
Mexico Travel Guide – The Best Time To Visit
September is the best time to visit Mexico, as the weather in Mexico is cooler this time of the year. There are fewer spells of rain. There is lush greenery. September also has fewer crowds, as kids go back to school. With fewer tourists, the prices have gone down too.
But honestly, there really is no bad time to visit Mexico. However, having said this, certain times of the year may appeal to different people. Also, some destinations and activities may be better at certain times of the year.
- US citizens traveling by land or sea can enter Mexico and return to the US with a passport card, but if traveling by air will need a passport. Those from other countries will need their passport to enter Mexico.
- Chinese, Indians, Russians, and South Africans are among those who do need a visa. But Mexican visas are not required for people of any nationality from the US, Canada, or a Schengen zone country.
- If the purpose of your visit is to work (even as a volunteer), report, study, or participate in humanitarian aid or human-rights observation, you may need a visa whatever your nationality. Visa procedures might take a few weeks. You may be required to apply in your country of residence or citizenship.
12 Top Reasons To Visit Mexico
Mexico is the world’s 8th most popular country for tourists according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Mexico received 35 million visitors in 2017, just ahead of Thailand. Its island escapes, Caribbean coastline, the cosmopolitan capital city, forests, and ancient ruins are a huge draw.
1. Beaches – Top beaches – Tulum, Akumal beach, the Playa Las Gatas, and the Cancún beach. You can simply relax on the sandy stretch, play beach volleyball, soccer, or go paddle boarding, fishing and kayaking. There is also diving, snorkeling, sailing, and whale-watching. Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres and Xpu Ha Beach is part of the Riviera Maya. Zipolite Beach, Playa del Amor, and Playa de Tecolote are the busiest beaches. You will find many vendors selling marlin en escabeche and chocolate clams.
2. Ancient Sites – Teotihuacán, Chichen-Itza and the circular pyramids of Guachimontones in Jalisco are all famous.
3. UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Historic Center of Mexico City and Xochimilco, Historic Centre of Puebla, Archaeological site of Monte Albán and the Historic Center of Oaxaca, Palenque, Teotihuacán, Chichen-Itza, El Tajin, Zacatecas, Uxmal, Xochicalco, the Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque and many more. There are a total of 35 sites.
4. Mexican Cuisine – It is vast. Mayan delicacies, tortas, and tacos are mouthwatering.
5. Mexican Music – Truly diverse. The mariachi groups are excellent and shouldn’t be overlooked.
6. Friendly, welcoming people – The Mexicans will go out of the way to help you if you know Spanish.
7. Diverse Landscape – There is something for everyone, from deserts to forests, turquoise sea to mountains, and volcanoes.
8. Unique Wildlife – Chance to see endangered species like Axolotl, cacomistle, Mexican prairie dog, and the Vaquita Porpoise along the Caribbean coast.
9. Drinks – In Mexico tequila, mezcal and pulque taste better.
10. Mexican Culture – Fascinating. Mexican culture is a collage of influences, from the Mesoamerican to the Spanish. Many speak local languages and dialects, and not Spanish at Oaxaca or the mountains of Jalisco and Chihuahua. Explore Spanish colonial history in Taxco, Querétaro, and Guanajuato.
11. Handicrafts – The country’s folk art and beautiful handicrafts are reason enough to visit Mexico. Collect woolen rugs, silver jewelry, Talavera pottery, hand-blown glass, baskets, hats, woodcarvings, and clothing.
12. Affordable – The cost of travel and hotels is cheaper than many other places. Even though the prices are higher in touristy areas like Cancún and Baja California, you’ll still get more bang for your buck.
Mexico Travel Guide for the 10 Best Places
Mexico is a huge draw for a lot of tourists who seek extensive sunshine, stunning scenery, and beautiful sandy beaches. And of course, there are those UNESCO World Heritage sites and the Aztec and Mayan ruins.
1. Cancún and the Mayan Riviera – Cancún is a coastline on the Gulf of Mexico. Playa del Carmen and the island of Cozumel, are collectively known as the Mayan Riviera. There are many tourists, but it never gets too crowded, because there are many beaches along the Riviera where you can find your spot of seclusion to enjoy nature and endless crystal clear water. You will find dolphins, stingrays, there is snorkeling among the reefs, and scuba diving in the world’s largest underwater museum, where you will see a spectacular collection of sculptures.
2. Puerto Vallarta – A popular beach on the Pacific coast. Puerto Vallarta offers beautiful nature and adventures. You can swim with the dolphins here. There are paragliding and jet-skiing. You can also shop for arts, crafts or simply stroll along the beaches.
3. Cabo San Lucas and the Los Cabos Corridor – On the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, it is often referred to as Cabo. This is one of Mexico’s top beaches. The towns of Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo are together called the Los Cabos Corridor (Corredor Turistico). This is a 30-kilometer stretch of pristine beaches that attract visitors for its clear water, diving, snorkeling, and fishing. There is swimming and snorkeling around the famous natural landmark El Arco de Cabo San Lucas, a huge archway carved out of the coastline where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific.
4. Copper Canyon: Mexico’s Grand Canyon – Chihuahua, one of Mexico’s most northerly states, shares the border with New Mexico in the US. The Copper Canyon here in the Sierra Madre Occidental is one of the most visited natural attractions. The copper green color along its steep canyon walls adds calmness to the scenery. It is formed by six rivers that converge in the Rio Fuerte before draining into the Gulf of California.
5. Mexico City’s Historic Center – Mexico City, the capital, has world-class museums, art galleries, and many attractions. There are many important colonial buildings in Constitution Square, the city’s happening main plaza. See the National Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Templo Mayor with its Aztec relics. Huge volcanic mountains, the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, both over 5,000 meters tall, add stunning scenery.
6. Chichén Itzá: The Mayan Metropolis – You can go on a day trip to Cancún and Playa del Carmen or the Yucatán capital of Mérida. The magnificent Mayan city of Chichén Itzá is one of Mexico’s most visited archaeological sites. The massive El Castillo, the Pyramid of Kukulkánnù, is the site’s tallest structure. See the Caracol, an old observatory that stands testament to the civilization. Many statues and the famous Mayan Chacmools hold sacrificial vessels as they continue to protect these old temples.
7. Guanajuato – Explore the city on foot. The Jardin de la Union, the main square, has old architecture, the beautiful old San Diego Church, and the majestic Juárez Theater, along with fountains and flower beds and cafés. Guanajuato is an ‘art city’. There are many fine galleries, museums, including the Museum of Quixote, dedicated to the works of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes. The city’s famous Mummies of Guanajuato exhibit many naturally mummified remains of locals who died during a cholera outbreak.
8. The Ancient Fortress of Tulum – The ancient city of Tulum is one of the Yucatán Peninsula’s most visited attractions and is also famous for Mayan settlements. The beaches of Cancún, Playa del Carmen, and Cozumel are all must-visits in Mexico. Tulum is also famous for its tall walls. It almost feels like a military fortress and a place of religious importance. See the Temple of the Frescoes with its sculptures and reliefs, and the Castillo, the largest building, famous for its cliffside location.
9. Guadalajara – Guadalajara is second to Mexico City in size. There are broad avenues, picturesque parks, and fine old buildings. Guadalajara is known for its traditional Mexican culture, from mariachi music to Charreadas, a type of rodeo that is usually accompanied by festivities like dancing, singing, and plenty of great food. It’s a fun city to explore on foot. There are four large squares that together form the shape of a cross and comprise the old city center. The best of them is the Plaza de Armas, the Government Palace, and the beautiful Baroque Guadalajara Cathedral.
10. Mérida: Yucatán’s White City – Mérida, the capital of Yucatàn, is one of Mexico’s finest old colonial cities. You can make Mérida your base to explore the region’s many Mayan sites – Chichén Itzá and Tulum. There are many parks in the city, ancient buildings, and plazas. Mérida is a remarkably neat and tidy city. The locals dress in white, giving the city its long-standing nickname of Ciudad Blanca, the ‘white city’.
Mexico Travel Guide FAQ
Is Mexico dangerous to travel to right now?
There is a lot of violent and non-violent crime in Mexico. The tourist areas are generally safe, but there can still be a few instances of petty crimes. You have to be careful if you visit outside the frequented tourist places.
What should I avoid in Mexico?
- Don’t drink water, especially on the street
- Avoid the hot sauce
- Don’t be critical of the local Mexican food
- Don’t wear valuables
- Visit the local markets
- Don’t venture outside the tourist places alone
- Don’t forget to tip
What are the safest places to visit in Mexico?
Mexico’s safest cities for travelers are…
- Mexico City
- Puerto Vallarta
- Oaxaca City
- San Miguel de Allende
Is $100 a lot of money in Mexico?
$100 USD is about $2,000 Mexican Peso, which is the average weekly wage outside the biggest cities. $2,000 Mexican Peso is a lot of money for some of the locals, but not enough for others. Mexico isn’t a poor country.
Is 50 pesos a good tip?
Tipping is always appreciated in Mexico. Consider paying a tip between 25 and 50 pesos daily to keep your room clean. It will be better to tip every day because the staff will sometimes change daily.
What is the safest beach town in Mexico?
The safest beach towns in Mexico are…
- Ciudad del Carmen
- Salina Cruz
- Puerto Escondido
What is considered rude in Mexico?
The locals will usually stand close when talking. They will often squeeze the arm, handshake, and give a hug, and it will be longer than what most Americans and Canadians consider normal. Avoid standing with your hands on your hips as this shows that you are angry. The locals consider it rude if you stand with hands in your pockets.
What is the safest resort town in Mexico?
Puerto Vallarta is an extremely popular vacation spot. Many couples and even Hollywood celebs come here for their holidays. It has for a long time been one of the safest places to visit in Mexico.
What is the number one vacation spot in Mexico?
- Playa del Carmen
How much should you tip your driver in Mexico?
The tipping custom is different than what you will find in the US. Usually, the cab drivers in Mexico won’t expect a tip. However, if the driver helps with the luggage, then it would be polite to offer a top of 10 pesos for each bag. It’s cheap and will bring a smile.
How do you say hello in Mexico?
Buenos dias means “Good Day”. It is very popular. Buenas tardes means “Good afternoon” and Buenas noches “Good night or evening”. Hola or “Hello” is the most popular greeting in Mexico. Cómo estás means “How are you” and Qué tal? is “What’s up”.
Mexico Travel Guide – How To Visit On A Budget
Mexico for budget travelers – If you’re a budget traveler, you’re going to be surprised by how low your expenses in the country can be. Let’s say you travel overland using public transport, stay primarily in hostels, and eat Mexican street food for three meals a day. In this situation, you can expect to average just $25 a day.
Mexico travel guide for mid-range travelers – If you’re more of a mid-range traveler, you’ll be looking to stay in a decent hotel, splurge on some nice restaurants, and occasionally take a domestic flight. In this case, you can expect to average $70 a day in Mexico.
Mexico travel guide for luxury travelers – If you’re a luxury traveler, the sky’s the limit! There’s no real upper limit as to what you can spend here, so you could be looking at anywhere between $100 and $500 a day. And if you’re a nomad that’s looking to live in Mexico for a month or more, then your monthly costs will be even lower.
- You can cut down your budget by eating street food, which is super cheap.
- Use public transportation like the ‘chicken’ buses that cost less, but are on time.
- You can save money by camping. There are many facilities throughout the country.