Travel guide to Mexico

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When visiting Mexico you quickly notice that it is very much marked by ancient Indian culture. You can see many impressive pyramids, temples and ruins - abandoned by the amazing Mayan culture. Mexico is brim-full of sights and it boasts some utterly beautiful natural scenery and charming quaint villages.

Facts

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Local name
Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Capital
Mexico City (20,000,000)
Size
1.953.162 km2
Principal Languages
Spanish
Principal Religion
Roman Catholic
Inhabitants
94.400.000 (1999)
Government
Republic
Geography
Mexico borders with the USA in the north and Guatemala in the south, and is dominated by mountains - of which the two most important ranges are the Sierra Madre in the east and the Occidental, unsurprisingly in the west. The coastlines are flat and sandy, although the Pacific coast has some mountain scenery. Mexico only possesses a few large rivers, of which the biggest is the Rio Grande.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

Mexico is hot and humid from May to October and especially the southern parts of the country can become unbearable to be in, particularly between July and September. If you just want a beach-vacation, it's okay to go there in this period, but otherwise it's best to go at another time, such as October to May, when it's dry and comfortably warm.

Literature

Lonely Planet Mexico Lonely Planet Central America on a Shoestring

Local conditions

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Currency

Mexican Peso (MXS)

In case of emergency

In case of an emergency in Mexico, dial the following number: Police (183954) Fire department (142050) Ambulance (152055)

Tipping

Tipping is common in Mexico, usually 15 per cent in restaurants and an American dollar to the maid. Taxi drivers usually don't get a tip, but guides do, although only a modest amount.

Timezone

Mexico is divided into three time zones: When it is 12.00 in the UK, it is 05.00 in South-, Central- and East-Mexico. When it is 12.00 in the UK, it is 04.00 in Nayarit, Sonora, Sinaloa and southern Baja California. When it is 12.00 in the UK, it is 03.00 in northern Baja California.

Weight and Measures

The following units of measurement are used in Mexico: Length: metre Weight: kilogram

Photography

You'll experience no problems photographing in Mexico, as the Mexicans are used to tourists. Ask for permission before taking pictures of individuals and be aware of special rules concerning holy and historical places

Drinking water

You should under no circumstances drink the tap water in Mexico, but always buy bottled water, which you can buy almost everywhere. You should also use bottled water, or at least boil the tap water first, when you brush your teeth, make ice cubes or tea.

Electricity

In Mexico, the following current is used: 110 volt AC/60 Hz

Behaviour

Mexicans are an extremely friendly and warmhearted people who usually welcome guests with open arms. If you show the same friendliness towards them, you will quickly make some fine acquaintances. Casual clothes are perfectly acceptable to wear in Mexico, but do not run around in your bathing clothes anywhere other than the beach. You can smoke anywhere that there are no no-smoking signs.

Business Hours

Banks are open 9.00 to 13.30 (Monday to Friday); some banks are open to 16.00 or 18.00. Shops are open 9.00 to 20.00, most places close during the warmest hours, in the middle of the day.

Food and drink

Mexican cuisine is famously spicy, and the most famous dish is probably chili con carne, which is beef-flesh or soya in a strong chili sauce with beans. You can also try the Mexican guacamole and tortillas, which are corn-pancakes usually wrapped around a filling. To soothe your throat after these spicy dishes you can have a Mexican beer, such as sól, and flush it down with a shot of tequila, usually served straight up with lemon and salt.

Disabled travellers

Travelling in Mexico isn't always easy if you're disabled, as many of the old hacienda hotels have no elevators or lifts/ramps for the disabled. The Mexicans are helpful, though, but the best thing to do, if you're disabled, is go on an arranged tour.

Holidays

New Year's Day, 1 January Constitution Day, 5 February Benito Juaréz' birthday, 21 March Labour Day, 1 May Celebration of the Battle at Puebla, 5 May Independence Day, 16 September Columbus Day, 12 October All Saints' Eve, 1 November All Saints Day, 2 November Celebration of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, 20 November Christmas Day, 25 December

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

There are plenty of places to camp in Mexico, and it's free, which of course means that the facilities are not the best. In national parks you are charged a small fee for camping. But the western part of Mexico especially , by the Pacific Ocean, offers plenty of possibilities for camping at no charge.

Hotels

There is a broad selection of hotels in Mexico, from five-star to one-star hotels. Note that the hotels do classify themselves, so the standard is not always what you might expect.

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

There are many modest guesthouses in Mexico - look for the sign saying "casas de huespedes".

Hostels

There are no actual youth hostels in Mexico, but lots of hostels where you can sleep in dorms very inexpensively

Local transport

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Planes

There's an excellent network of connections between the most important cities and areas, but it isn't cheap to fly nationally

Bus

The bus service in Mexico is quite good as it is also the most widely used means of transport. Long-distance buses have air-conditioning installed and have fairly comfortable seats, and it is faster than the trains.

Trains

The train service in Mexico is good, connecting all the important cities, but it is a rather slow way of getting around. Children under five years are free of charge.

Taxi

There are four different kinds of taxi in Mexico City, and the rest of the country have many as well. There are no taxi-meters; so agree on the price before the ride.

Car rental

The major car rental companies operate in Mexico, too, and you can rent cars in all major cities and airports.

Boat or Ferry

There are daily departures between the mainland and both the Caribbean islands and Baja California. There are also connections to La Paz.

Other Transport

The Mexicans also use shared taxis, which are called combis, collectivos or peseros, and which are usually old wrecks transporting tourists over long distances at low costs. Mexico City also has a metro.

Special conditions

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Notice that Mexico City is a very polluted city, and that it can be bad for your health to stay there for a long period of time. There have also been a rise in the number of assaults on tourists in Mexico City - and on the highways. Check the current advice from the Foreign Office before you visit.

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