Mexico Travel Guide
Caught between the mighty USA and Latin America, Mexico is an amalgam of new and old, cold Corona beer and mind-blowing spicy food, desert landscapes and snow-capped volcanoes. The famous Mayan ruins offer cultural respite from the bustling beach resorts and slow-moving provincial towns to frenetic Mexico City.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Tequila, Mexican food, value for money, Maya ruins, Cancun nightlife, Acapulco cliff-divers, colonial architecture, shopping in Oaxaca, Kahlúa, Mexico City’s museums, excellent water sports, Mexican wrestling, Monarch butterflies, Once Upon a Time in Mexico.
What’s Not: Banditry and thievery, low-quality handicrafts, tequila hangovers, green taxis, pestering beggars, Montezuma’s revenge, expensive phone calls, extorting cops, the food at scenic restaurants, paying twice for bus tickets.
When to Go
Mexico’s climate varies according to the landscape. Along both coastal plains, it’s hot and humid. Inland in Guadalajara and Mexico City, which are at higher altitudes, the weather is much drier and milder.
The hot and wet season (May to October) sees the low-lying coastal areas get more rainfall than higher inland regions.
The cool season (December to February) gets northern winds which can make inland northern Mexico pretty cold.
Getting There & Away
Mexico City is the main air hub, while many visitors also arrive in Cancun or Acapulco. The domestic air network is extensive and efficient, though railway services have all but ceased to operate. The spectacular exception is the Chihuahua-Pacific Railway, which runs between Chihuahua and Los Mochis.
The bus network is excellent and economical, with first-class and deluxe coaches as well as ordinary buses. Mexico City has a first-rate and cheap metro, while Guadalajara provides buses and trolleys.
Health & Safety
Crime is widespread in larger cities and includes robbing taxi drivers, bag-snatching and highway holdups. Border towns can also be risky, while northern non-border towns are generally very safe. Don’t drink the tap water and beware of jellyfish in the sea. Avoiding street stalls may save you from Montezuma’s revenge.
Food & Hospitality
If your idea of Mexican food was formed through dining at Taco Bell, you may be surprised by the spiciness of the real thing, which is delicious when washed down with a tequila or Corona. Every region of Mexico has its own dishes. Accommodation options include a range of chain hotels, ‘dude’ ranches, thermal spas and resorts. More modest guesthouses are also available in most towns.
One week is the least you need to spend to take in some of the main attractions.
Two or three days in Merida, a colonial town with daily free concerts.
Two or three days admiring Chichen Itza, the amazing Maya pyramid and lots of other weird and interesting structures. Two or three days at Playa del Carmen near Cancun for its hip, laid-back beach scene and great bars, restaurants and shops.
Extra time Four or five days in chaotic Mexico City for its fine churches, museums and cathedrals. One or two days in Tepoztlán, a pretty, calm town in a stunning natural setting, surrounded by steep, sharp cliffs that glow pink in the afternoon sun. Two or three days in Acapulco, home to golden beaches, tropical jungles and lagoons, glittery nightlife and daredevil cliff-divers.
Mexico City: is the world’s third-largest metropolis and shows the best and worst sides of the country.
: peninsula is famous for its long seashore and fine white beaches, calm bays and striking cliffs.
Guadalajara: is the country’s second-largest city and this is where many things Mexican have their origin including mariachi music, tequila, broad-brimmed sombrero hats and the Mexican rodeo.
: was built around 2,000 years ago and was Mexico’s largest pre-Hispanic city. Today, visitors can see plenty of pyramids and temples.
: is a national monument, made rich by the town’s silver mines. Silverware and jewelry are still flourishing local trades here.
: in the foothills of the Sierra Madre features some spectacular colonial architecture and was declared part of the Cultural Heritage of Mankind by UNESCO.
Cultural sightseeing: is a must, with all the lovely churches and cathedrals, Mayan ruins and intriguing colonial history.
Hiking, biking and horseback riding: can be enjoyed everywhere, but are especially good in Baja California and Copper Canyon.
Water sports: facilities are excellent at most major beach resorts. Acapulco has particularly good facilities for waterskiing.
Spa holidays: will pamper you at the numerous hot springs, especially in the area around Mexico City. There are many resorts with high-class facilities offering a range of treatments.
Gondola cruising: on the tree-lined canals and Aztec-built floating gardens of Xochimilco, often accompanied by mariachis.
Festivals & Events
Mexico has a reputation for hearty, jovial fun and nearly every month, it has a major national holiday or fiesta.
February: Carnival is the big party before the 40-day penance of Lent and is particularly brazen in Mazatlán, Veracruz and La Paz.
May: Cinco de Mayo is celebrated with the customary music, dance, parades and mock battles all over Mexico.
November: Day of the Dead is a wonderfully macabre feast featuring highly desired candy skulls and papier-mâché skeletons.
December: Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrates the country’s religious icon.