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Mexico – 10 Things You Should Know Before Backpacking There

Monument to the Revolution, Mexico CIty

After living in Mexico City for over 5 months, I feel like I have had a sense of the country as I have also visited 8 states. It’s a country which is very much misunderstood and has a lot to offer. These are things that I wish I knew before coming here and what you should definitely consider before visiting Mexico.

1. Getting Into Mexico

The rule is that you must declare how long you’ll be in Mexico to the immigration officer for a maximum of 180 days when you arrive. When you’re on the plane, you must fill in a form which you will give to an immigration officer who will give you half of it which you must have once you leave Mexico. Before you fly to Mexico, you should also buy a return flight and organise a hotel booking as immigration officers also ask for it.

2. Money

The currency in Mexico is the Mexican peso and about 25 pesos is equal to a pound. A few places like bars, convenience stores and restaurants take card. However, if you need cash, I recommend going to an ATM at a bank like Santander or a shopping centre. Furthermore, Mexico can be pretty affordable as in Mexico city a bottle of rum can cost £10 at a convenience store and using the subway is 5 pesos (20P) per use.

3. Spanish is Front and Centre

Spanish is the first language in this country and not everyone here speak English as a second language. You may be able to get around more easily if you know a few phrases in Spanish. What you need to keep in mind as well is that the accent and words are slightly different which confused me at first. However I think you can survive without knowing any Spanish as Mexicans are very welcoming and eager to help tourists.

4. Getting around Mexico

Unlike Western Europe or Asia, there isn’t a railway network that can take you from state to state. The best options are to take the bus or fly. You can rent a car however, my Mexican friends say that it’s better to not drive if you’re not used to Mexican roads. Traffic in Mexico City for example can be chaotic and driving at night can be dangerous. Viva Aerobus is one of the main airlines for travelling within Mexico and the flights are cheap and they are genuinely a decent way of flying around.

Buses can be a mixed bag, I took a 2 hour bus to Puebla and there was literally no legroom. At the same time a took a 5 hour bus to Acapulco that had very luxurious seats, TV screens and USB ports.

5. Don’t Drink the Water and be Wary of Food

While Scotland has the best tap water in the world, that you can drink to your heart’s content, it is a terrible idea to drink the tap water in Mexico as it can make you very ill. You don’t need to worry as bottled water can be easily found at the convenience stores at 60p for a 2 litre bottle. Furthermore, the food in Mexico can make your stomach go awry, I highly recommend avoiding eating street food as much as possible. You don’t need to worry as you can find authentic Mexican food and it won’t destroy your stomach.

6. Where to Buy Certain Things

It’s important to know that if you want to buy medicine or toiletries, you need to go to a pharmacy. Oxxos and 7-11s are convenience stores which can be found everywhere and sell most things you need. However if you want to buy groceries, you should go to a supermarket like Soriana.

7. Safety

Contrary to what Hollywood films and what the media will tell you, Mexico is safer than you think. While crime does happen in the country and there are places that are troubled by cartels. There are sensible measures that you can take in order to ensure your safety. Be very careful in places that are crowded and that attract a lot of tourists. In Mexico City there is a risk of people trying to steal your wallet or bag because they have the opportunity to do so.

It’s not like seeing gun crime is a daily occurrence and in Mexico City I have walked around at night and felt completely safe. Don’t go wandering around in places you’re not familiar and I’m sure nothing bad will happen. I feel like Mexico’s crime is overblown because of the media so don’t be stressed thinking you’re in danger the whole time.

8. Mexico is an Incredibly Diverse Country

Mexico is constantly stereotyped as being just one big ugly desert. This idea is nothing of the truth, Mexico is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and every state feels different. It may surprise you that some areas around Mexico City have pine trees. While the states south of Mexico City like Guerrero and Oaxaca are in jungles. Different states have different vibes, Mexico City is like a concrete jungle, while Puebla is a smaller city with more colonial architecture.

9. The Weather

Mexico’s climate is pretty good, however it’s not sunny all of the time. When I arrived in Mexico City in January it was cool enough to wear a hoodie and generally, it’s quite hot during the day and cools down in the evening.

I recommend bringing a jacket for Mexico City and you should not wear trunks and flip flops as it’s nowhere near the beach. In places like Quintana Roo and Oaxaca, they were very hot and even scorching in the night. I also recommend getting suncream when going into the sun as the sun is strong here and give you horrific sunburn.

10. Mexicans are the Best Around

What I didn’t expect is that Mexican people are incredibly welcoming to tourists and that it’s very easy to make friends here. They are incredibly outgoing and will be open to invite you along to hang out with them. Even if you’ve just met them, they will treat you as one of their own and will go out of their way to help you. Once when I was catching up with an old friend, one of his friends who I just met gave me a lift home in his car. I highly doubt that people from the UK are as friendly and outgoing as Mexicans.

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