If you’re a first-timer to Mexico, then you’ve probably got some preconceived notions about what you might find. But it’s time to throw those out the window. Come on… do it now! That’s because Mexico is far too culturally rich, vast, and varied to be stereotyped.
But because of the beliefs people have before they arrive, they tend to make the same mistakes time and time again. To make sure you don’t fall into those same traps, read through the following 10 mistakes tourists make in Mexico… and try not to repeat them yourself.
10 Mistakes Tourists Make in Mexico
1. Only visiting sun-and-sand destinations
Thanks to the popularity of Mexico’s beach destinations in the Riviera Maya and Pacific Coast, it’s very easy to just think of Mexico as a white-sand, sparkling-seas vacation destination. But doing so means missing out on some of the country’s most fascinating and rewarding locations.
In fact, three of the world’s top five cities can be found in Mexico, according to Travel + Leisure magazine, proving its cosmopolitan centers are just as vacation-worthy as Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and Los Cabos.
2. Just drinking beer and tequila
When it comes to alcoholic drinks, many tourists will stick to the national beers and tequila. However, if you want to experience the whole gamut of Mexico’s drinks industry, you need to try some of the less heralded beverages.
The other Mexican spirit many people are aware of is mezcal (of which tequila is a type). However, drinks such as pulque, sotol, and raicilla, are gaining popularity on a global scale. You may also be surprised to learn that Mexico has a thriving wine region, Valle de Guadalupe, which produces vintages rivaling the very best in the world.
3. Thinking Mexico is unsafe
Perhaps the most common misconception of them all, many potential tourists continue to believe that Mexico is unsafe, meaning they miss out on one of the most beautiful vacation destinations in the world.
There are areas of Mexico in which it would be unwise to travel (like in many countries in the world). But to dismiss a whole country on these grounds would be a huge mistake. The United States government currently advises travelers to Mexico to “exercise increased caution”. To put that into perspective, that’s the same caution they give to visitors heading to France, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
JM TIP: If safety is a concern, speak to a Journey Mexico Travel Planner who can help you organize your Mexico trip from start to finish, including transport and hotel bookings.
4. Only carrying credit or debit cards
In much of the United States or Canada, you can pretty much getaway with living a cashless life. That’s not the case in Mexico, particularly if you’re looking to eat at the local food stands or buy boutique gifts and handicrafts from smaller shops.
Make sure to carry a range of notes and coins with you — they will come in very handy throughout your trip. American dollars are accepted in many of the tourist destinations, but you will most probably receive an unfavorable rate. Best to pay with pesos.
5. Sticking to the tourist attractions…
Mexico is full to the brim with tourist attractions. The most famous of all is (probably) Chichen Itza, one of the Seven New Wonders of the World and a truly breath-taking feat of design and architecture. But did you know there are many other pyramids in Mexico apart from El Castillo in Chichen Itza?
By visiting the less-trodden path, you get to see some truly magnificent sights without the throngs that tend to accompany the more popular destinations. Your experience will be more pleasant, less rushed, and a lot more comfortable.
6. … Or missing the tourist attractions
With that said, the tourist attractions are popular for a reason. It would be very difficult, for example, to visit the Yucatan Peninsula and miss Chichen Itza altogether. Instead, you need to be a bit clever about when you go.
For example, Journey Mexico can help you organize an off-hours private visit to Chichen Itza. By doing this, you still get to see the incredible site, but without jostling for position with other tourists. The trick to having an authentic Mexican vacation without it being ruined by other travelers is to vary your itinerary. See Chichen Itza, of course, but then visit a lesser-known cenote the following day.
JM TIP: Speak to a Journey Mexico Travel Planner who can help you organize a vacation that hits the major landmarks and off-the-beaten-path wonders.
7. Expecting everyone to speak English
In the major tourist destinations, resorts, and hotels, many people will speak English to an exceptionally high level. However, you should not expect everyone to speak your language. Learning a few words before you go will be helpful, even if it’s just please (por favor) and thank you (gracias).
You shouldn’t be afraid to test out your high school Spanish, the majority of locals are very gracious to the tourists who at least give it a shot. If it’s something that puts fear into you, Journey Mexico can provide you with a bi-lingual guide, who will also be able to tell you more about the cities and destinations you visit.
8. Only trying tacos and quesadillas
Much like venturing beyond tequila and beer, you have to push beyond tacos and quesadillas when it comes to Mexican cuisine. On no circumstances should you miss them altogether — they’re a must for any Mexican vacation — but you should try plenty of other delicacies.
Each region of Mexican has its own variation of national cuisines plus dishes unique to that area. Take, for example, the city of Pachuca in Hidalgo. There you will find delicious pasties, which were introduced by settlers in the 1800s from Cornwall in the United Kingdom. That’s just one of the hundreds of different culinary quirks you will find across Mexico.
9. Thinking every salsa will be hot
Another culinary correction that we must make is that every salsa will blow steam from your ears. When translated, salsa means sauce. So in just the way that not every sauce is spicy, not every salsa is either.
Many salsas are created without chili but, instead, rely on other ingredients to pack a punch. A classic bowl that you will see in many taquerias is a salsa Mexicana, named so because the red tomato, white onion, and green cilantro and chili represent the colors of the Mexican flag. These are not necessarily hot, but spiciness varies from taco stand to taco stand. Just ask!
10. Going without a plan
Finally, going to Mexico without an itinerary is a mistake. You don’t need to plan every minute, but having a rough idea of the attractions you would like to visit is recommended. Mexico is a massive country, so you may need to pick and choose what you see carefully.
Cramming too much in can make the holiday feel rushed while seeing too little means you might not get the full experience. For help creating the perfect Mexico itinerary, speak to Journey Mexico. We’ve got years of experience crafting perfectly balanced vacations that take in Mexico’s wonders and leave enough time to enjoy the good weather.