1. FUN FACTS
Mexico introduced chocolate, corn, and chilies to the world
The first printing press in North America was used in Mexico City in 1539
Mexico City is built over the ruins of a great Aztec city, Tenochtitlán
One Mayan weapon was the “hornet bomb,” which was an actual hornets’ nest thrown at enemies
Mexico is diverse and comprised of desert, forest, beach, and volcanic mountains. This incredible playground is home to sacred religious sites, Cancun’s vacation paradise, the Mayan ruins of the Yucatán Peninsula, and so much more. It’s a place of history and adventure, where visitors can choose to do and see what interests them most: journey on a religious pilgrimage, dive into the mysteries of the ancient world, or find a lively beach with clear, warm waters to explore sea life and enjoy some much-needed repose – heck – why not do it all?
Swimming with dolphins, swim-up bars, swimming holes, and swimming pools; delicious native cuisine, live music, and drinks; water sports, relaxation, or nightlife—however you like to vacation, Cancun will satisfy. It’s a perfect city to start a vacation in the Yucatán Peninsula because it provides easy access to anything you might want to try. With access to dozens of beaches, resorts, dining options, water sports like parasailing or snorkeling, and a full shopping bazaar, Cancun has a great deal of activities to do in a small area. It also offers easy access to exotic spots like the Island of Cozumel and Xcaret Park—a unique archeological site that incorporates a water park, swimming with sea life and through rivers under rock formations, historical and cultural performances, and dozens of other activities. It even features a new way of snorkeling, “Snuba”, which uses a snorkel mask but allows you to descend deeper into the waters to explore more sea life. A simple ferry ride transports you to Cozumel, an oasis of fun, laid-back play time and known for some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling in Mexico. And if you are looking for a unique spot where time truly slows down, tiny Isla Mujeres is only eight miles off the coast of Cancun, with a more tranquil and enchanting sort of atmosphere than some of the larger destinations in the Caribbean.
Uxmal & Chichén Itzá
If you’ve ever visited a museum, you know it’s rare to be able to climb, walk on, touch, or even take photos of the exhibits. Some of the Mayan ruins in the Yucatán are a surprising exception. Perhaps the Incas get a little more pomp and circumstance throughout South America for the great Machu Picchu, but the Mayan civilization is credited with some of the most accelerated and forward-thinking practices in the history of the world. The list is extensive, but here are just a few: if you love chocolate, thank the Mayans. Their use of the cocoa bean has made minds and bodies all over the world happier. The Mayans are also credited with the design of calendars that match our current models today; correctly tracking the planets, moon and sun; and they are recognized for their advancements in herbal medicine. By 600 AD, Chichén Itzá, the Mayan capital, had schools, libraries, hospitals, and then…they mysteriously vanished from most of their cities by 1000 AD, after the arrival of the first Europeans. There are still only theories as to what happened to this advanced Copyright, All rights reserved. civilization. What is amazing is that Chichén Itzá and Uxmal were some of the latest flourishing cities, adding to the mystery of their disappearance. The archaeological site at Chichén Itzá is one of the newly designated Seven Wonders of the World, where you can explore the many courts, temples, and sacred cenotes—deep, natural pits of collapsed limestone that exposed groundwater many centuries ago. You can even take a cool, intriguing swim in a few of them! Learn about the Mayan language, cuisine, and spiritual traditions. Then enter the dense jungle of Uxmal, where dozens of ruins sit in anticipation. At Uxmal, you may have the opportunity to actually climb and enter some of the ruins. Another must-see is Kabah and its “Palace of the Masks.” The extraordinary façade of the palace contains detail of epic proportion – multi-faceted, multi-colored, and spiritually evocative.
As the nation’s capital, Mexico City is situated in the center of the country and offers a great base for exploration. Easy day trips can take you to unique historic destinations including Xochimilco – where your boat glides along the canals of the floating gardens of the Aztecs, or to Teotihuacan “city of the gods” where you will see the ancient Pyramids of the Sun and Moon and extraordinary Temple of Quetzalcoatl. Several significant religious sites such as the revered Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe and The Church of San Francisco are worth the visit. Appreciate the city’s delicious local cuisine and museums and uncover the perfect souvenir at the famous handicraft markets of Coyoacan.
One of Mexico’s prettiest colonial cities, Puebla is sure to delight visitors with its famous azulejos buildings (decorated with painted ceramic tiles), its striking cathedral, and art scene. Its notable cuisine and plethora of churches (70 in just the historic center) make this a great visit and it’s just 30 minutes from Cholula with its famous Pyramid and miles of tunnels.
La Barranca del Cobre, or Copper Canyon, is a massive canyon located in a section of the Sierra Madre of northwestern Mexico known as the Sierra Tarahumara, named after the indigenous people who live there. Perhaps the best way to experience the Canyon is by rail on the Chihuahua al Pacifico, one of the most extraordinary railroads in the world. A true engineering marvel, the railroad took nearly 100 years to construct, spans 387 miles, crosses 39 bridges, and travels through some of Mexico’s most spectacular scenery. Besides the stunning natural landscape, this area of Mexico is known for the rich cultural traditions of the Tarahumara Indians, who have lived among the canyons for the past five centuries. The beautiful valley of Cerocahui is nearby, where a 16th century church stands proudly over the historic town. The deepest canyon in the western Sierra Madre Mountains, Urique Canyon, should not be missed before continuing to Posada Barrancas, located on the rim of Copper Canyon, where you may find yourself hiking along the canyon’s rim, sailing over the canyon by zipline, discovering the canyon by horseback, or learning about the traditions of the Tarahumara Indians.
Between the Mayan ruins of the Yucatán, the tropical island coastal paradises, and the always-summer playground of Cancun, Mexico is a destination of mystery, charm, and adventure. It’s a place that’s sure to keep you coming back again and again.
2. VISAS AND PASSPORTS
A visa for your visit to Mexico is not necessary for U.S. citizens. If you hold a passport from another country, check with your local consulate about requirements for travel to Mexico.
All passengers traveling internationally are required to have a passport. Please carry proper identification (your passport) on you and do not leave in your suitcase or hotel room. Most countries have laws that require you to carry your passport with you at all times.
In addition, entry into Mexico requires a Tourist Card. The Mexican government provides this Card free of charge upon entry if entering by air. It is given to you by your airline when you check-in for your departure flight. If crossing the border on land, you will be required to purchase the Tourist Card for $30 USD_ at the border.
3. COUNTRY CODES
The country code for Mexico is 52. When calling to Mexico from overseas, dial your international access code (011 from the U.S./Canada) followed by the country code, area code, and phone number. Phone numbers in Mexico are 10 digits in length. Dialing from the U.S./Canada: 011 52 ## #### ####.
The official currency of Mexico is the Peso.
1 Mexican Peso = 100 Mexican Cents (centavos)
Coinage 5,10,20, 50 centavos
Pesos: 1, 5, 10, 20
Banknotes Pesos: 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000
Credit cards are accepted in Mexico, and you should have no problems using them in larger shops and restaurants. Visa and MasterCard are most accepted. Smaller shops may ask you to pay in cash or have a minimum amount required to use a credit card. US dollars are widely accepted at most sites in Mexico. It is recommended that you bring a quantity of $1 bills and $5 bills with you. This will help when purchasing crafts from local vendors, tipping, and buying drinks and snacks.
5. BUDGETING AND SHOPPING
The following budget guidelines are just approximate values or starting values for meals and are per person. Actual prices will vary widely by restaurant and city within a country but below are some averages as provided by our experienced personnel.
The approximate cost of a soft drink/mineral water/coffee is $2.
An average lunch consisting of a salad or sandwich and a soda or water starts at approximately $10.
A steak dinner at a mid-range restaurant with dessert and a non-alcoholic beverage starts at approximately $25-50.
In open street markets, try not to touch items unless you are interested in purchasing them. If you would like to take photos, please ask permission. Most vendors are happy to have their picture taken with the item you have just purchased. If you are being confronted by vendors, smile, say nothing and then shake your hand low to say no. This is polite and they understand. To many people, saying “No” means I want it at a lower price and they will follow you in attempt to bargain.
In many areas of Mexico, bargaining for purchases is normal. First, ask for a price. Offer an amount slightly below what you wish to pay. It is important to be polite and smile while bargaining. In most cases, bargaining will not save you a lot of money. Keep different value bills folded and separated in different pockets, that way you can pull out the exact money you need, and sometimes this can close the deal. Opening a wallet or purse to pull a roll of bills out can lead to negotiation problems. Always finish the transaction with Thank You and a smile.
Tipping in Mexico is similar to tipping in the United States. For restaurant services, a tip of 10-20% is reasonable.
For a taxi, Tips are not expected, but certainly appreciated. If the driver assists you with your luggage, tip 10 percent of the fare.
Tip hotel staff a few dollars for room and bar service.
7. ELECTRICAL OUTLETS
Voltage for outlets is 127V. North American voltage is generally 110V. Therefore, a converter may be necessary for your travels. Adapters will be necessary to adapt your plug into the outlet but may not convert the voltage, so both devices are necessary.
Outlets in Mexico will be similar to those in the United States.
Temperatures on the Yucatán Peninsula remain high throughout the year, with only a 9 °F difference between winter and summer median temperatures.
To help you plan, below are average low and high temperatures for cities in Mexico.
To convert to Celsius, subtract 32, then multiply by 5 and then divide by 9.
9. FOOD SPECIALTIES
From tacos and enchiladas to quesadillas, tamales and more – the famous mestizo cuisine can be easily found in small family run cafes to high end restaurants. Don’t miss the elote (roasted corn on the cob) and for the adventurous – try chapulines (roasted grasshoppers).
Popular drinks such as “Atole,” “Rompope,” fresh fruit-flavored water, and of course the most famous Mexican drink in the world, Tequila, are some excellent choices to accompany your meals and refresh your palate.
In coastal towns, seafood and fish are the most common entrees In the Yucatán, you will find a blending of ancient Mayan dishes incorporating European flare. Tropical fruits are abundant. You’ll find plenty of grilled meats, chicken, turkey, pork, along with traditional lime soup, rice, and beans.
For dessert, fresh fruit sorbets and churros (fried-dough pastries generally sprinkled with sugar) can’t be beat. In restaurants, always ask if they have menus in English, as many establishments will.
Bottled water is how many people drink water even at home. Never drink or ask for tap water for many reasons. Ice is rarely used as well.
10. CUSTOMS AND CULTURE
Greeting and Interaction
The best way to address people when you do not know their name is to simply use “Señor” (male) or “Señora” (female).
It’s normal to introduce yourself with a polite greeting of “buenos días/tardes” (good morning/ afternoon or evening).
Greeting customs in Mexico also incorporate a lot of personal contact. Women will generally greet other women by kissing once on each cheek, right to left. Men will also kiss women on the cheeks when greeting them, but handshaking is reserved for between two men.
People here have a tendency to stand relatively close to each other when they are talking. Although you might find that this is perhaps a little too close for your liking, you should just accept that this is normal behavior, and trying to create more space between you and your counterpart could be seen as rude.
Ladies should always travel with tissue. If public restrooms have toilet paper, it is sometimes rationed. Hand sanitizers are recommended to bring with you as some bathrooms may not have hot water and soap. In some public restrooms you are required to pay a small fee.
11. A FEW WORDS OF THE LOCAL LANGUAGE
¡Hola! Hi!, ¡Buenos Dias! Good morning!, ¡Buenas Noches! Good evening!, Me llamo _______. My name is _______., ¿Cómo se llama usted? What is your name?, Mucho gusto. Pleased to meet you., ¿Cómo está usted? How are you?, Bien, gracias. ¿Y usted? Fine, thanks. And you?, Mas o menos So-so, ¡Hasta luego! See you later!, Adiós. Good-bye., Por favor. Please., Vivo en ________I live in _____________, (Muchas) gracias. (Muy amable.) (Many) thanks. (Very kind.), De nada. You’re welcome., Lo siento. I’m sorry., ¿Me permite? May I?, Disculpe. Excuse me. (To get someone’s attention.), Con permiso. Excuse me. (For leaving or passing through.), Perdón. Excuse me. (For sneezing, arriving late, etc.), ¡Salud! Gesundheit! (When someone sneezes.) Cheers! (For toasting with drinks.), ¿Me pasa _______ por favor? Could you please pass me _______?, Sí. Yes., No. No., Gracias Thank you, No entiendoI don’t understand, No hablo español I don’t speak Spanish,¿Habla inglés? Do you speak English?, ¿Dónde está el baño? Where is the bathroom?, Está cerca? Is it near?, Está lejos? Is it far?, Siga recto. Go straight ahead., Gire a la derecha. Turn right., Gire a la izquierda. Turn left., Nescito esto. I would like this., Una mesa para dos, por favor. A table for two, please., La carta, por favor. The menu, please., La lista de vinos, por favor. The wine list, please., primer plato appetizers, plato principal main course, postre dessert, Quisiera algo para beber. I would like something to drink., Un vaso de agua, por favor. A glass of water, please., Una Cerveza. Beer, Una Copa de vino tinto/blanco Glass of red/white wine, La cuenta, por favor. The check, please., Incluye la propina? Is the tip included?, Desayuno Breakfast., Comida lunch, Cena dinner, ¡Buen provecho! Enjoy the meal!, ¡Salud! To your health!, Está riquísima! It’s delicious!, Plato. plate, Tenedor. fork, Cuchillo. knife, Cuchara. spoon, Servilleta. napkin, Hielo. ice, Sal. salt, Pimiento. pepper, Azúcar. sugar, Sopa. soup, Ensalada. salad, Pan. bread, Mantequilla. butter, Pollo. Chicken, Carne. Beef, Cerdo. Pork, Quisiera la carne poco cocida. I like my steak rare., Quisiera la carne a medio cocer. I like my steak medium., Quisiera la carne bien cocida. I like my steak well done.
Cero. Zero, Uno. 1, Dos. 2, Tres. 3, Cuatro. 4, Cinco. 5, Seis. 6, Siete. 7, Ocho. 8, Nueve. 9, Diez. 10, Once. 11, Doce. 12, Trece 13, Catorce 14, Quince 15, Dieciseis 16, Diecisiete. 17, Dieciocho. 18, Diecinueve. 19, Veinte. 20, Cien. 100, Mil. 1000.