From the serene Pacific shores of Acapulco to mysterious Mayan ruins to the glistening turquoise waters of the Yucatan, Mexico is a country of unending diversity. It’s not one fabric, it’s many; there is no single landscape, culture, or language that can define the entire country. Still, foreign tourists may have some concerns about traveling in Mexico. By following a few simple tips, a trip to Mexico can be a virtually worry-free and enriching experience.
It’s true, some parts of Mexico are not safe for tourists. Violent crimes such as carjacking, robbery, and kidnapping happen. Check travel advisories from the U.S. State Department and avoid unsafe areas. The following tips can also help:
- Carry only enough money for the day, and put it in an inside pocket or money belt. Put the rest of your money in the hotel safe. Get cash from an ATM and pay in pesos, as the exchange rate is much better.
- Make photocopies of your important personal documents—passports, driver’s license, etc.—and keep them in a different place than the originals. Also, scan them and email them to yourself.
- Write down the international number of your credit card company, as well as the credit card number itself. If your card is lost or stolen, you’ll have the information you need to contact the credit card company.
- Blend in. A camera around your neck and a map or guidebook is like waving a red flag, telling thieves that you’re a tourist. Try to travel under the radar.
- Be especially careful in crowds or when on public transportation. Pickpockets know their business and often work in teams. Your money or wallet can be gone in an instant, and, even if you know something was taken, it may already be too late.
- Don’t drink and drive. The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18, but drunk driving penalties are stiff. You don’t want a long sentence in a Mexican prison. If you break the law, your country’s consulate can do little to help.
You’ve heard, “Don’t drink the water!” And for good reason. It’s not dirty, it just has different bacteria that your system isn’t accustomed to.
- Use only bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth. If you order bottled water at a restaurant, be sure the cap’s seal hasn’t been broken. And be careful even with drinks served with ice.
- Get a bottle of grapefruit seed extract pills, and take one before every meal. It has natural antimicrobial properties and can help you avoid diarrhea.
There are certainly precautions you’ll want to take, but don’t let that stop you from squeezing every drop of magic and wonder from your Mexican getaway.
- Try the food. Authentic Mexican cuisine is quite different from the Americanized “Tex-Mex” that’s popular in the United States.
- Take it all in. Whether you are hiking up a mountain, taking in the bustle of Mexico City, or unwinding at one of the beach hotels on the Riviera Maya, keep all of your senses open to everything that this rich country has to offer.