Journey Mexico is excited to welcome you to Mexico! This guide will help to provide an overview of Mexico, information about your upcoming travel, and some tips and suggestions on how to prepare for and maximize your experience. As you take the time to read these helpful notes, you may find that some of your pre-trip questions and issues may be addressed. Enjoy your adventure!
- Passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the last day of your trip
- Mexican Visa (US residents do not need a Visa. Other countries should check with the Mexican Consulate)
- Another Picture I.D. (Driver’s License)
- Two (2) photocopies of your passport
- Additional passport photos (in the event of losing your passport, extra photos will speed-up the renewal process)
- Airline Tickets
- Money (Cash, debit cards, credit cards)
- Proof of inoculations (see Health section in this booklet)
- List of important telephone numbers (travelers checks, credit cards, airline, your embassy) in the event of loss of items
For international flights, passengers are allowed to check luggage of up to 50 lbs (25 kgs). Carry-on is limited to two pieces and must fit under the seat. Rules are subject to change, always confirm with your airline.
For domestic flights within México, luggage restrictions vary. In some airlines total baggage should not exceed 15 kgs (33 lbs) while others allow up to 25 kgs (50 lbs). When you travel with more luggage than the allowed, or if your luggage is heavier or larger than permitted, you will be charged excess luggage. In all cases, excess luggage will be accepted subject to space in aircraft.
In cities outside the USA, a two to three hour check-in is often required. If you are making a stop in route, remember that international flights must be reconfirmed 72 hours in advance of departure time.
If you should miss your flight due to a problem with your domestic carrier, contact your international carrier immediately; as they can inform you of alternative options. Then contact Journey Mexico; we will make the necessary adjustments to accommodate your situation.
Holders of American, Australian, Canadian, British/EU Member Country*, New Zealand, Israeli Passports do not need a VISA to visit México.
Holders of other passports (including holders of passports of one of the 10 New EU Member Countries – (* see below) should check with their local Mexican Consulate for details of VISA requirements. You can see a list of countries and get the latest entry information from the Mexican Consulate’s website.
Note that your passport, regardless of country of origin, MUST be valid for a minimum period of 6 months, regardless of how long you intend to stay.
*From May 1st 2004, 10 New Member States Joined the EU: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Cyprus & Malta. Regulations for entry still vary by country, and holders of these passports should contact their nearest Mexican Consulate for details. You can see a list of these countries and get latest entry information from on the Mexican Consulate’s website.
For participating countries (see first paragraph above) in place of a Visa, a Mexican Visitor’s Permit (known as an FMT) will need to be filled out. This is a simple form, which can be obtained from your local Mexican Consulate or better still, just pick one up from the check-in counter at the airport and fill it out on the airplane before you land.
If you have not arrived in México by airplane, then you will need to pay México’s tourist permit fee, currently US$22. Your plane ticket will normally have this fee included in your fare (under ‘taxes and surcharges’).
If the airline you are travelling with does not have any Mexican Tourist Permits on board or at check-in, don’t worry, you can get one when you land in México and fill it out before you queue up to have your documents checked and stamped by the officials at the airport.
- Passport valid for at least 6 months
- FMT (Tourist / Business Trip Permit) from the airline or at the local port of entry, or other Entry Permit (e.g. FM3/2 Visa)
- Customs Declaration Form
Once you arrive, take your forms to the immigration area and queue up in the lane signposted for foreign visitors. At the desk, an immigration official will inspect your documents, write a number of days on the Tourist Permit (maximum 180) that your permit will allow you to stay in México, stamp your Tourist Permit and Passport, return a copy of the Tourist Visa to you and ask you to proceed to customs.
Once you have reclaimed any baggage, take it and your Customs Declaration Form to the exit gate, where you will be presented with a Red/Green Traffic Light.
Below the traffic light is a button, which you will be asked to press. Some airports now have a machine into which your customs declaration form is inserted, and this replaces you having to push a button for the traffic light. If the light flashes green, you walk through without being inspected. If the light flashes red, your bags will be inspected, either casually or thoroughly.
Customs Allowances into México:
- 25 Cigars or 200 grams of tobacco
- New & used goods for personal use, e.g. clothes, personal hygiene products, footwear
- 10 Packs of Cigarettes
- 3 Litres of alcoholic or 6 litres of wine
- 2 Cameras and its photographic material
- 3 cell phones or any other cordless communication equipment
- A Laptop computer and A GPS
- Any sporting equipment (e.g. golf clubs, scuba gear, bike) for personal use
What you can bring back home from México:
Customs allowances into your home country will depend on where you live. If you are planning to do a lot of shopping in México, you should check at the information desk at airport of departure in your home country for the latest duty-free allowances.
Returning to the USA, Britain or other EU Member countries, for example, the following quantities of items are allowed in duty-free: 200 Cigarettes, 100 Cigars or 250g of Tobacco, 1 Litre of Spirits (>22% alcohol by volume)
Rates and amounts vary by country/trading block – check with the information desk at your port of departure for the latest details in your home country.
We advise keeping receipts for all purchases and packing your items-to-declare separately in your luggage. This will expedite your process through customs.
However, it is imperative that you check the website of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), a US agency in charge of providing up-to-date information for travelers. Their information regarding México and Central America is found at the following website: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/mexico
For all health recommendations, please check with your personal physician and/or local health organization. It is advisable to carry with you an up-to-date record for your allergies, health conditions, and/or chronic medical problems so that emergency medical treatment, if necessary, can be carried out without endangering your health.
It is highly recommended to only drink bottled water. You can never be too careful when adjusting to new bacteria, so don’t be afraid to brush your teeth with bottled water and request purified ice in your drinks.
MEDICAL: Our trips are not rigorous expeditions but they are physically demanding. For most trips spending extended time in remote areas, Journey Mexico will furnish a first aid kit and attempt to secure, but does not guarantee, the services of a doctor. Journey Mexico assumes no liability regarding provision of medical care. Members are urged to check their insurance coverage to be sure it is adequate. For remote excursions, each trip member will receive a medical questionnaire, which must be completed and signed. In general, you must be in good health to participate on one of our adventures; it is vital that persons with medical problems make them known to us well before departure. Journey Mexico can assist you in purchasing an appropriate policy. Contact us for more info!
The trip leader and/or trip doctor have the right to disqualify any member from the group at any time if considered medically necessary or to avoid endangering the group, or if the participant in question is physically unfit for the rigors of the trip. Refunds are not given under such circumstances. Trip members should have a personal supply of any special medications which they may need. These medicines should be carried with you at all times. It is understood that Journey Mexico is not a medical facility and therefore has neither expertise nor responsibility regarding what medications or inoculations you and your private physician should decide necessary for your safe participation in the tour.
Getting To Know Mexico
Mexico contains numerous traces of pre-Columbian civilizations, including Maya, Toltec, Olmec, and Aztec which influence many aspects of the life nowadays. Mexico is also home to distinct and large modern cities. Mexico City is currently one of the largest urban areas in the world. Mexico has its own distinct culture, although it shares similar characteristics with other Latin American countries
In 1325 the Aztec, or Mexica, the leading tribe, founded a settlement named Tenochtitlán in an area surrounded by marshes in Texcoco, one of the valley lakes. As the settlement grew, its military strength was increased by the construction of causeways that dammed the waters of the surrounding marshes and made the town a virtually impregnable island fortress. Their civilization was highly developed, both intellectually and artistically. The Aztec economy was dependent on agriculture, particularly the cultivation of corn. As they grew wealthyl, the Aztec built great cities and developed an intricate social, political, and religious organization. The arrival of the Spanish in 1519 led to a great conflict between the two cultures.
The Spaniards were successful in their conquest for several reasons. First, Aztec motivations were not concerned with political or territorial influence; their conquests only had to do with the payment of tribute. This led to a large group of peoples with no loyalty to Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, and a lot of hostility between the citizenry. Hernán Cortes conquered Tenochtitlan largely by using these enmities. Second, the Aztecs had no formal military strategy. Finally, Cortes and his men were desperate and determined; they had entered Mexico against orders and knew that, unless they conquered Mexico, that they would be severely punished when they returned. In 1535, some years after the fall of the Aztec capital, the basic form of colonial government in México was instituted with the appointment of the first Spanish viceroy. For the remainder of the Spanish colonial period, from 1535 to 1821, a total of 61 viceroys ruled México.
A distinguishing characteristic of colonial México was the exploitation of the native people. Although thousands of the indigenous inhabitants were killed during the Spanish conquest, they continued to be the great majority of inhabitants of New Spain, speaking their own languages and retaining much of their own culture. As the colonial power grew, they became the laboring class. Reforms decreed by Spain to improve the conditions of the Indigenous people, however, were largely ineffectual because of the difficulty of enforcement. The condition of the Indigenous population became a primary concern of the Mexican government when the colonial administration was later overthrown in 1821.
One of México’s great leaders to emerge was an Indigenous man, Benito Pablo Juárez, who became famous for his integrity and unswerving loyalty to democracy. For 25 years Juárez was the principal influence in Mexican politics. Through his dedication and strong idealism, a federal form of government, universal male suffrage, freedom of speech, and other civil liberties were embodied in the constitution of 1857. Conservative groups bitterly opposed the new constitution.
Another constitution, promulgated in 1917, provided for a labor code, prohibited a president from serving consecutive terms, expropriated all property of religious orders, and restored communal lands to the original Indigenous owners. Many provisions dealing with labor and social welfare were exceedingly advanced and for their day radical. Some of the most drastic measures were intended to curb foreign ownership of mineral properties and land.
In 1929, the National Revolutionary Party (PNR) was founded, later renamed the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and started a period known as the Maximato, which ended with the election of Lázaro Cárdenas, who implemented many economic and social reforms. This included the Mexican oil expropriation in March 1938.
Between 1940 and 1980, Mexico remained a poor country but experienced substantial economic growth that some historians call the “Mexican miracle”.Moreover, the PRI rule became increasingly authoritarian and at times oppressive.
In 1992 constitutional changes abolished restrictions imposed on the Roman Catholic Church in 1917 and that December Mexico, US, and Canada signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA which took effect Jan. 1, 1994. Positive and adverse effects are evident on both sides of the border more than 10 years after the imposition of the trading pact.
Vicente Fox Quesada, a conservative reformer, became presidenti n July 2000 and proposed an ambitious program, pledging to crack down on corruption, boost foreign investment, and restructure the energy sector, but he was unable to deliver on his promises during his first three years in office. Fox had also hoped to work with President George W. Bush on a plan to legalize the status of millions of undocumented Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. Elections in the summer of 2006 began another chapter in the rich political history of México. Mexico’s electoral court ended a two-month dispute over election fraud in September 2006, naming conservative presidential candidate Felipe Calderon Mexico’s new president.
Since becoming President, Calderón has overseen the passage of legislation to reform Mexico’s judicial system, and has worked to strengthen the energy sector, increase the number of jobs, and fight crime and drug cartels. However, by 2009 Mexico is still suffering from a recession, high unemployment, and escalating drug-related violence and cartel warfare along the northern border region wi th the United States. Calderón’s PAN lost to the opposition PRI in the legislative elections held in July 2009 and the presidential elections held in 2011 when the PRI re-gained control of the executive office. The current President is Enrique Peña-Nieto.
Christmas & Easter holidays are observed; on other public holidays you’ll find most things open in cities and bigger towns / tourist spots. Smaller towns will have more limited opening hours, and in hotter, non-tourist regions may close between 2-4 pm. Check locally.
Jan 1 New Year’s Day
Feb 5 Constitution Day
Mar 21 Birthday of Benito Juarez
May 1 Labor Day
Sep 16 Independence Day
Oct 12 Día de la Raza (Columbus Day)
Nov 2 Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
Nov 20 Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution of 1910
Dec 12 Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Dec 25 Christmas Day
Spanish is the official language of México. There are numerous indigenous languages that are still spoken in many regions. English is widely spoken.
Mexican people are extremely open and relaxed, very warm and uncommonly friendly! Family, soccer, and socializing are of utmost importance to most Mexicans. Sundays are often put aside for spending time with families walking through the park, eating big dinners, and participating in activities with friends and family. Although their population is rather diverse, one commonality shared amongst the various peoples is their hospitality and willingness to help and befriend new visitors.
The current population of México is about 125 million people, with about 30 million residing in Mexico City and its surrounding areas. Guadalajara ranks second among Mexican cities in population with approx. 4 million, including surrounding areas.
Southern Mexico including Puerto Vallarta, Punta Mita, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Oaxaca, Merida and Cancun* is on GMT -6 hours, which is equivalent to the Central Time zone in the United States of America. *The state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Cozumel, and Isla Mujeres is on GMT -5 hours during the months of November through March.
Punta Mita, Mazatlan, Baja California Sur, the Copper Canyon, Sonora, Sinaloa, Chihuahua, are on GMT – 7, which is equivalent to Mountain Time zone in the United States of America.
Northern Baja California is on GMT – 8 hours, which is equivalent to Pacific Time zone in the United States of America.
Please Note: México uses daylight savings time in the summer from the first Sunday in April until the fourth Sunday of October. This does not coincide exactly with DST in the United States of America.
Helpful Tips and Advice
Wash and wear, lightweight natural fabrics are recommended. In keeping with México’s relaxed lifestyle, dress is informal on most occasions. However, in larger cities dress is a bit more formal, as it is customary to wear long pants and a collared shirt. Although many people on the coasts wear shorts and t-shirts, incorporate casual wear with appropriate weather conditions. In summer it is usually warm enough to wear a light jacket in the evening. It is recommended that you carry a light jacket and/or rain gear when in doubt about what the weather may bring.
EMAIL: Just about every town and city in México (except for very rural or remote villages) has internet access I the hotel or at least one Internet Cafe, where you can surf the web and check for email online. Look for signs reading “Acceso a Internet” or “Ciber“. Charges range from approx. US$1 an hour to US$3 an hour, depending on the location.
The unit of currency is the Mexican Peso (MXN). Credit cards are accepted in most places, especially major cities and large shopping areas. In more remote areas there may be difficulties using credit cards, so do not solely rely on them for financial transactions.
Major credit cards can be used for the purchases of goods and services, while traveler’s checks can be accepted at hotels, banks, and some stores but are no longer common. Provided they are equipped with a PIN number, international credit cards may be used to withdraw cash from automatic teller machines (ATMs), widely available throughout major cities, in the main shopping malls, and suburban malls. BE AWARE THAT THERE IS A CHARGE IN MÉXICO TO USE ATMs. Also, be sure to check with your bank to see if there are charges incurred for usage abroad as well. To avoid long lines at the Arrivals Currency Exchange, we recommend that you acquire some Mexican currency before departing from home.
If you plan to use taxis on your own in major cities, contact the front desk of your hotel in order to arrange a secure mode of transportation.
It is also recommended that you leave jewelry and other items of great value at home during your time in México. Flashy and expensive looking jewelry may cause unwanted attention and it is best to travel modestly.
Possibilities for shopping in México are endless. Craft markets, galleries, and museum shops offer an array of options. Specialty galleries and other places that may be difficult to locate can possibly be tracked down by our Journey Mexico experts on the ground.
Mexican silver is some of the best and least expensive found in the world. Mexican silversmiths are master artisans creating intricate pieces and exquisite designs. Often inlayed with jade, turquoise, onyx, and other stones, the jewelry is relatively inexpensive and uniquely created pieces are found in jewelry shops around the country.
Other Mexican products include ceramics and locally made pottery, woven wool blankets (sarapes), brightly colored scarves in wool or silk (rebozos), richly embroidered charro hats, straw work, blown glass, embossed leather, hard- and semi-precious stones, gold and silver jewelry, finely pleated men’s shirts in cotton voile (guayaberas), white dresses embroidered with multi-colored flowers (huipiles), which are sold in the markets, and hammocks. The best shopping is in Mexico City, Campeche, Cuernavaca, Guadalajara, Mérida, Oaxaca, San Miguel de Allende and Taxco.
Please Note: The decision of whether or not to shop while traveling is a matter of personal choice and is never compulsory. If at any point during your journey you feel pressured to shop or make purchases, please bring this matter to the attention of Journey Mexico’s head offices.
In smaller, less expensive restaurants, leaving some change is a kind gesture of gratitude. However, in the larger hotels and restaurants, 10 – 15% tipping helps to make up a large part of workers’ income. In medium range eateries, 10% is usually sufficient.
In hotels, giving $1.00 – $2.00 U.S. per person per night is customary for the maid staff that has kept your room clean (hopefully they have!!).
For porters in mid-range hotels, $1.00 US is usually fine while in the higher-end accommodations $1.00 US per bag per movement.
Taxi drivers don’t generally expect a tip unless they have gone out of their way to do something extraordinary, while gas station attendants do ($0.25 – $0.50 US).
In Mexico it is customary to tip your local guides between $5 – $10 US/person/ day or $3 – $5US/person for a half day tour. If you are traveling with one of our premium “through guides” who accompanies throughout your stay and assists you beyond predetermined ½ day or full day tours, we recommend between $7 and $15/person for each day of the trip.
Of course, it is completely up to you to decide how much you would like to give; there is no obligation to pay a tip and it is completely at your discretion.
Taxi drivers don’t generally expect a tip unless they have gone out of their way to do something extraordinary, while gas station attendants do ($0.25 – $0.50 US).
The official tourism site for México: www.visitmexico.com
US State Department: www.travel.state.gov/
US Center for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov
UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office: www.fco.gov.uk
US Customs: www.customs.ustreas.gov
Longitude Books: www.longitudebooks.com
Currency Exchange Rates: www.imex-fx.com
Determining the correct time anywhere: www.worldtimeserver.com
U.S. Embassy in Mexico
Paseo de la Reforma 305
Col. Cuauhtemoc – México, D.F. 06500
TEL From México: (01-55) 5080-2000
From the U.S.: 011-52-55-5080-2000
British Embassy in Mexico
Río Lerma 71
Col Cuauhtémoc – México D.F. 06500
TEL From Mexico: (01-55 ) 5242 8500
From the U.K.: 00–52 55-5242 8500
In preparation for your trip, Journey Mexico recommends that you check out some of the following titles:
Rough Guide México
Roger Norum – GUIDEBOOK • 2004 • PAPER • 842 PAGES
A lively, comprehensive guide to México in the British series, neatly divided between practical information and a good roundup of culture, history and nature.
Reader’s Companion to México
Alan Ryan – ANTHOLOGY • 1995 • PAPER • 368 PAGES
This fine volume collects some of the best writing on México, including excerpts by John Steinbeck, Langston Hughes, Graham Greene and many others. Each satisfyingly long excerpt is crisply introduced by Ryan with valuable historical and, in many cases, personal context. A terrific overview.
The Labyrinth of Solitude
Octavio Paz – CULTURAL PORTRAIT • 1985 • PAPER • 398 PAGES
An enduring classic by the Nobel prize-winning poet and essayist Octavio Paz. This collection of essays tackles Mexican culture and character. The chapters on the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead and the conquest are especially memorable.
Conquest: Montezuma, Cortes and the Fall of Old México
Hugh Thomas – HISTORY • 1995 • PAPER • 812 PAGES
A prize-winning history of the conquest; entertaining, massively researched and definitive. A monumental work, the last 200 pages are devoted to lengthy appendices on everything from Aztec myths to the many wives of Cortes. It’s rare to find a work of such scholarship and importance that is also so much fun to read.
Distant Neighbors, A Portrait of the Mexicans
Alan Riding – CULTURAL PORTRAIT • 1989 • PAPER • 352 PAGES
A best-selling profile of the contemporary México and its people covering politics, culture and economics, by the long-time New York Times bureau chief in México. Includes insightful portraits of México’s recent presidents and leaders.
Lost Cities of the Maya
Claude Baudez • Sydney Picasso -ARCHAEOLOGY • 1992 • PAPER • 175 PAGES
A pocket guide to Maya archaeology. This lavishly illustrated small book features hundreds of color photographs and illustrations — along with excerpts from key works and a brief guide to Maya arithmetic, their calendar, and inscriptions.
Popol Vuh, The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life
Dennis Tedlock (Editor) – LITERATURE • 1996 • PAPER • 388 PAGES
A collection of creation myths and stories of the Quiche people, fundamental to understanding the worldview of the highland Maya. First transcribed into Latin in the 17th century, Tedlock consulted contemporary Maya for this significantly revised and expanded edition. With illustrations, maps, drawings and photos, and extensive notes.
A Guide to the Birds of México and Northern Central America
Stephen Howell • Sophie Webb – FIELD GUIDE • 1995 • PAPER • 849 PAGES
Serious birders will want this definitive guide to the 1,070 bird species found in México, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and western Nicaragua. It may be awkward to carry but it covers, in detail, all the birds you will see in the region in a single volume
[Download PDF for Printing or offline storage: Our Mexico Guide: Notes for Travelers]