White sand beaches, crystal clear water, abundant sunshine, great food, and amazing historical ruins await in the tropical destination of Mexico. Before arriving in paradise, it’s always a good idea to research and gather advice for traveling to your chosen destination so you can feel prepared—and make the most of the local culture.
Prepping for a trip to Mexico is more than just packing some sunscreen in your luggage. From insider knowledge about the best food and drink to sample, to where to find the most authentic shopping, advice for traveling to Mexico is helpful in maximizing your travel experience.
Having a grasp on local customs, cultural etiquette, overall practical information, and off-the-beaten-path spots in which to experience Mexico’s quieter side can aid in making your Mexican vacation one of your best trips yet.
Make the most of your Mexican vacation with these 10 Mexico travel tips.
Pick the Right Season
Just like many other destinations in the world, there are better times to visit based on the weather, your interests, location in the country, and more.
Overall, the most coveted time of year for traveling to Mexico is the dry season, which stretches from December to April. During this time there is little to no rain, maximizing your sunny beach days in a tropical haven.
Since Mexico is such a large country, when to visit is also dependent on where you plan on going. For example, coastal areas like Cabo San Lucas and Costa Maya are best enjoyed during the months of May to June or October and November when you can expect warm, clear weather.
If you’re visiting destinations in the Baja Peninsula, such as Ensenada, the months between June and October are the best temperature-wise, as it’s prone to cooler weather.
Other seasons to consider are whale watching season during the annual migration of the graceful giants and for the unique opportunity to swim with whale sharks.
From August to November near Ensenada off the coast of Baja California, it’s possible to spot whale sharks as well as swim with them. Whale-watching is one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta, so keep an eye out for humpback whales annually from December to March, too.
Keep Cash Handy
Many areas of Mexico have a cash-based economy, especially if you’re buying smaller items. Having some cash with you is great for buying things like street food, shopping in local markets, and as a general backup.
For instance, if you pay in US dollars at a local art shop, you’ll end up paying more as the shop owner will have to exchange it to pesos, and give you change in pesos.
If you want to experience a small local restaurant or take a taxi, carrying cash is the only option. Having smaller bills and coins is helpful as well, as breaking bigger cash notes isn’t always easy.
They come in handy for tipping in various situations too, with anywhere from 10 to 20 percent being customary for services at resorts, restaurants, and more.
Learn Some Spanish
It’s helpful to know a few basics of the Spanish language before your trip to Mexico, even for small situations such as bathroom visits and for showing respect to the local people and the Mexican culture.
Even if you do know Spanish, it’s important to note that Mexican Spanish, though similar, differs some, so it’s useful to learn a handful of local words that you might need the most while visiting.
The word for “car” in Spanish is “coche” whereas in Mexican Spanish it’s “carro” or “auto.” Another instance where the words are different is with the word “potato” which is “patata” in Spanish and “papa” in Mexican Spanish.
The word for corn is also completely different, which is an important one to know in Mexico; it’s “maiz” in Spanish and “elote” in Mexican Spanish.
While you may not be able to understand or speak everything in the language, if you at least try with a few words or phrases while interacting with locals in Mexico, it will be greatly appreciated.
Appreciate Events & Festivals
Traveling to Mexico while a festival is taking place is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the rich culture. It’s also an exciting way to experience a destination through the five senses.
Perhaps the most famous festival is the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). Taking place on November 1 and 2, the Day of the Dead pays homage to ancestors who have passed on with parades, decorative altars, costumes, face paint, and flowers.
Puerto Vallarta is one of the top places to experience the Day of the Dead in Mexico. It’s celebrated for a full week, with the main parades, decorative shrines, and events taking place on the Malecon (boardwalk) as well as the town squares.
Although the largest festivities take place in the bigger cities, this sacred holiday is celebrated throughout the country, in small villages as well as big cities.
Planning your Mexican getaway around a festival like this can enhance your overall experience visiting the country.
Know Your Mexican Beer
While most of us are familiar with Corona beer, there’s a lot more to the brews in Mexico. From classics like Corona with a slice of lime to Estrella Jalisco and the growing craft beer scene, this is a great place to sample beer.
Lager lovers will enjoy a crisp Dos Equis and poolside pairs well with Sol Cerveza. Taste the oldest beer brand in Mexico when you order a cold Victoria, or go the craft beer route and sip a Tempus Dorada.
Try a refreshing Tecate after spending a few hours in the sun at Palancar Beach, one of the best beaches in Cozumel. On the west coast, drink a Pacifico on a cruise past the famous El Arco (The Arch) of Cabo San Lucas.
Don’t Drink the Tap Water
It’s generally pretty hot in Mexico, and staying well-hydrated is key to enjoying your vacation to the fullest. However, the tap water in Mexico is not potable.
So, while traveling in the country, it’s important to either purchase bottled water or pack a water bottle that comes with a travel-grade filter for safe drinking.
This is an environmentally conscious way and method to practice sustainable travel while at the same time, effective in removing the bacteria or parasites from the water to keep you from getting sick.
Prepare to Indulge in Chocolate
You don’t have to be a foodie to appreciate the culinary wonders of Mexico. Chocolate is one of the top things Mexico is known for; the best way to experience the sweet treat is through a factory tour, tasting, or chocolate-making class.
Chocolate production goes back thousands of years to when indigenous tribes were among some of the first to cultivate cacao beans, transforming them into culinary delights.
Cozumel and Costa Maya are fantastic places to embark on a factory tour where you can learn about chocolate production and sample different varieties.
Try the dark chocolate or the more adventurous habanero citrus at Cozumel’s favorite spot, Chocolateria Isla Bella. In Costa Maya, indulge in a visit to Kakaw Chocolate Factory and sample the dark chocolate coffee.
Learn the Basics of Drinking Tequila
One of the best things to do in Mexico is to drink tequila like a local and experience one of the country’s most authentic and beloved drinks. It’s important to know that tequila is meant to be savored, not quickly taken as a shot.
High-quality tequila is made from 100% agave and is typically aged before being served in a small glass that should be sipped.
Lime and salt are often offered on the side too, if needed. If drinking it straight is too much for you, opt for a margarita or the popular Paloma, made with tequila, grapefruit soda, and lime.
In addition to enjoying the tequila through drinks on your vacation, consider visiting a tequila tasting experience with a Master where you can also learn about how it’s distilled and the different varieties such as unaged Blanco and aged Añejo.
Places like Costa Maya, Cabo San Lucas, and Mazatlan are excellent for fun and educational tequila tastings and tours.
Travel Beyond the Beach
With beautiful stretches of coast on both the east and west shores of Mexico, it’s no surprise that the stunning beaches are a top attraction. Although days spent on the sand are a key part of any Mexican vacation, venturing beyond the beach to discover other beautiful places in Mexico is a must.
Step back in time with a trip to some ancient Mayan ruins where history, culture, and architecture come together to dazzle travelers. Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula is a favorite destination where you can wander and see the Pyramid or El Castillo, among other important sites, for yourself.
Alternatively, the Kohunlich & Dzibanche Mayan Ruins in Costa Maya are a slightly less trafficked site to consider in the midst of the jungle. Here, a guided tour will give you a glimpse into the pre-Columbian-Mayan civilization and structures such as the ball court, royal palace, and acropolis.
Make sure to stop and check out the Temple of the Masks as well, this pyramid-shaped piece of architecture was built to honor the Sun God and contains detailed stucco masks from ancient times.
When traveling to Ensenada, lace up your hiking shoes and explore El Salto Canyon. The relatively easy trek leads approximately two miles out and back and features a waterfall.
One of the best things to do in Mazatlan is to take in the view from El Faro, a lighthouse that sits perched upon the peak of Cerro del Creston.
Mixing up your vacation time with the beach, fantastic snorkeling, city exploration, cultural activities, and visiting historical points of interest will make your Mexican getaway more well-rounded and fulfilling.
Get to Know Mexican Cuisine
Before traveling to Mexico it’s wise to research some of the delicious culinary items that will be available; you don’t want to miss out on trying a delicacy because you didn’t know it existed or where to get it.
Snack like a local at a cantina with a drink in hand and enjoy “botanas” which are tapas-sized dishes served at bars in between meals and include flautas, tacos de cochinita pibil (pulled pork tacos), and spicy potato wedges.
Other classic foods to try while in Mexico for a full indulgence of the amazing cuisine are tacos el pastor, chilaquiles (a nacho-like breakfast dish), pozole (a spicy soup), tamales, and elote (street corn).
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