Mexico Basics

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The Basics

Time: Mexico spans three different time zones: South, Central and Eastern Mexico GMT 6 (GMT 5 from first Sunday in April to second last Saturday in October); Nayarit, Sonora, Sinaloa and southern Baja California GMT 7 (GMT 6 from first Sunday in April to second last Saturday in October); Northern Baja California GMT 8 (GMT 7 from first Sunday in April to second last Saturday in October).

Electricity: 110-120 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin flat blade attachment plugs are standard.

Money: Mexican currency is the Mexican Peso (MXN), divided into 100 centavos. Credit cards are widely accepted, particularly Visa, MasterCard and American Express. ATMs are available in most cities and towns and are the most convenient way to get money, but for safety reasons should only be used during business hours and vigilance is advised. Although many businesses will accept foreign currency (particularly US Dollars) it is best to use pesos. Foreign currency can be exchanged at one of many casas de cambio (exchange houses), which have longer hours and offer a quicker service than the banks.

Currency Exchange Rates

MXN1.00 = USD 0.05GBP 0.04CAD 0.07AUD 0.08ZAR 0.76EUR 0.05NZD 0.08
Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: Spanish is the official language in Mexico. Some English is spoken in tourist regions.

Entry requirements for Americans: US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Mexico. A visa is not required for stays of up to 180 days.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: British citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Mexico. A visa is not required for holders of British passports endorsed British Citizen, British National (Overseas) or British Subject for stays of up to 180 days.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Mexico. A visa is not required for stays of up to 180 days.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Mexico. A visa is not required for stays of up to 180 days. Note that visa exemptions apply to holders of an APEC Business Travel Card, provided that the card is valid for travel to Mexico (i.e. endorsed with "MEX" on its reverse side).

Entry requirements for South Africans: South African citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Mexico. A visa is required. Passengers with a valid visa issued by Canada, Japan, USA, United Kingdom or a Schengen Member State are visa exempt for a maximum stay of 180 days.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Mexico. A visa is not required for stays of up to 180 days. Note that visa exemptions apply to holders of an APEC Business Travel Card, provided that the card is valid for travel to Mexico (i.e. endorsed with "MEX" on its reverse side).

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Mexico. A visa is not required for stays of up to 180 days.

Passport/Visa Note: All foreign passengers to Mexico must hold a Mexico Visitor's Permit (FMM), which is issued free of charge, and obtainable from airlines, Mexican Consulates, Mexican international airports, and border crossing points. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellers transiting through the United States are required to present a passport, or other valid travel document, to enter or re-enter the United States. Foreign passengers to Mexico should ensure that their passports and other travel documents are in good condition - even slightly torn passports will not be accepted. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Travel Health: Those entering Mexico from an infected area require a yellow fever certificate. There are no vaccination requirements for visitors to Mexico, however visitors should take medical advice if travelling outside the major tourist areas. A malaria risk exists in some rural areas, but not on the Pacific and Gulf coasts, and dengue fever is on the increase. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A and typhoid. Travellers who may come into close contact with animals and may be at risk of bites should consider a rabies vaccination. Sensible precautions regarding food and water should be followed and visitors are advised to be cautious of street food and stick to bottled water. Medical facilities are basic, so comprehensive medical insurance is recommended. As medicines may be in short supply in certain areas travellers should consider taking along prescription medications, in their original packaging, and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what it is and why it is needed. Note: Zika is still a risk in Mexico. Because Zika infection in a pregnant woman can cause serious birth defects, women who are pregnant should seek advice from healthcare providers before travelling to Mexico.

Tipping: Tipping is customary in Mexico for almost all services as employees are not paid sufficient hourly wages and often rely on tips. Waiters and bar staff should be tipped 10 to 15 percent if a service charge hasn't already been added to the bill. The American custom of tipping 15 to 20 percent is practiced at international resorts, including those in Los Cabos.

Safety Information: There can be incidents of robberies and muggings in Mexico, especially in the big cities such as Mexico City. Travellers, particularly women on their own, should be vigilant and take care of their belongings, especially on public transport. Only use authorised taxi services, and try to avoid bus travel at night. Visitors are advised to be wary of people presenting themselves as police officers attempting to fine or arrest them for no apparent reason, leading to theft or assault. If in doubt ask for identification. Most of the violence related to drug cartel wars in Mexico is concentrated along the border between Mexico and the United States. Tourist zones are generally unaffected, though it is worth checking the news before travelling. Hurricanes may affect the coastal areas between June and November.

Local Customs: Mexicans are not impatient and do not appreciate impatience in others, so travellers should expect opening hours and public transport times to be flexible and laid back. Mexicans are friendly and hospitable people and courteous behaviour and polite speech in return is greatly appreciated. Travellers should also note that it is common for Mexicans to communicate closer than one arm's length from each other and that it is not an attempt to be forward.

Business: In Mexico, business is ideally conducted face-to-face. Although many Mexican businessmen speak perfect English, Spanish is the official language of business in Mexico - and learning a few choice words and phrases will go a long way toward ingratiating yourself with your new associates. Business etiquette in Mexico is marked by a combination of formality and friendliness. It is very rare to hear the word 'No' being used in a direct or confrontational way - bald refusals are seen as rude. Use titles ('Señhor' and 'Señhora') until specifically instructed not to do so, but do not shrink away from engaging in personal discussions with your colleagues. Business meetings must be scheduled in advance, and then confirmed a few days before they are due to take place. The dress code for the Mexican business world is smart and formal. Business hours in Mexico are generally from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (with a 2 or 3 hour siesta in the early afternoon).

Communications: The international access code for Mexico is +52. If calling internationally from a phone booth use the official TelMex phone booths, as all others charge very high fees. There is widespread network coverage in Mexico from Telcel, Movistar, and AT&T Mexico. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifi are widely available.

Duty Free: Travellers to Mexico over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes or 25 cigars or 200g tobacco; 3 litres spirits or 6 litres wine; other goods to the value of US$500 if arriving by air, or US$300 if arriving by land are premitted without incurring duty fees. Prohibited goods include narcotics, firearms and used clothing that is not part of your personal luggage. The export of archaeological artefacts is strictly forbidden.