55 Top Tips For Traveling To Mexico And What To Know Before You Go
Thinking about traveling to Mexico and searching for information on the what-to-know essentials of visiting? Whether it is your first time or tenth visit to Mexico, I’ve put together a comprehensive list of tips for traveling to Mexico that you definitely want to read before you go!
Mexico is a rather large country with 32 states covering a vast area all with different climates and terrain making it an exciting country to explore.
The dominant language spoken in Mexico is Spanish but there are over 60 indigenous languages spoken especially in the smaller towns and villages.
I have been to Mexico countless times and wish I had known the following tips BEFORE visiting. These are tips I have learned the hard way and know they will help you have a less stressful trip after reading these Mexico travel tips!
Where Is Mexico?
Mexico is part of Northern America along with the United States and Canada. It is located south of the United States and north of Belize and Guatemala.
It is the southern part of North America that meets up with Central America bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Ocean to the east.
The two Gulfs that border Mexico’s land are the Gulf of California (Baja) and the Gulf of Mexico which also runs along the southern part of the United States.
How To Get To Mexico
Considering that Mexico borders the United States, it is quite easy to travel to Mexico from any major city in the U.S.
Unless you are driving over into one of the few border towns, I highly recommend you fly into your city of interest.
It will not only save time but avoid driving through Northern Mexico which tends to have regions where the cartel operates.
United Airlines has the most flights into various cities in Mexico followed by American Airlines, Delta, Volaris, and Aeromexico.
Begin your search for the best deals on airfare for your upcoming trip!
Top Tips For Traveling To Mexico Before You Go
General Mexico Travel Tips
1. Download The MPC App
Before you leave the United States, make a point to download the MPC or Mobile Passport Control app!
The Mobile Passport Control (MPC) app essentially allows you to bypass the very long customs lines when entering back into the United States.
It’s FREE and one of the best tools I have used when traveling internationally. And this is something you can use for several countries, not just Mexico.
Prior to an international trip, download the app and follow the prompts to provide all your information including your passport documentation.
That’s all you need to do until you fly back to the United States. Upon landing in the U.S., open the app select the airport you are landing in, and answer the questions as you are making your way to customs.
You will get a receipt within the app that you need to show the person standing in front of the line for MPC.
Once they verify it, continue down the usually empty line and right up to a customs agent. On my most recent trip from Mexico, I passed between 300+ people, and would have taken over an hour to get through.
Using the MPC app saves time, makes traveling through customs easier, and replaces your need to fill out a form.
Tip: This can be used for four US port cities when taking a cruise.
Note: U.S. citizens and Canadian B1/B2 citizen visitors are eligible to use it.
2. Don’t Lose The Form You Get At Customs
Speaking of forms, when you arrive in Mexico you will be given a customs form called an FMM form which stands for Forma Migratoria Multiple which means Multiple Immigration Form in English.
Once you fill out the FMM form, a customs agent will tear off a portion to keep and hand you a section of the form to keep.
Think of it as a tourist card or travel VISA for visitors to Mexico.
It is very important that you KEEP THIS FORM in a safe place during your trip. You will be required to hand over this form when you leave Mexico.
If you do not have it because you lost or misplaced it, you will be expected to pay a fine of about $30 (US dollars).
I use this passport carrying case and keep it with my passport so that I don’t accidentally lose it or throw it away.
3. Google Translate Is Your Best Friend
Outside of some of the big beach resort towns such as Cabo or Cancun, the majority of people do not speak English.
It is why I do recommend learning some basic words and phrases to get by and show that you are making an attempt to speak Spanish.
As long as you have your smartphone with you, using Google Translate is a game-changer when it comes to traveling internationally.
If you aren’t familiar with using it, you can type into the app what you want to say or ask in English and select to translate it to Spanish. You can also do this with almost any language too.
It will translate the word or phrase instantly as long as you have service or wifi!
Or if you see a sign in Spanish, you can input it into the app the Spanish phrase and it will translate to English.
I found it very useful to use in restaurants and cafes where menus are usually only in Spanish. Click on the “camera” button within the app and hold over a menu so that it can translate.
Of any app, I use this one the most in countries where English is not widely spoken.
4. Expect To Pay For Public Restrooms
Whenever you are out and about sightseeing in Mexico and need to use the bathroom, you will likely need to pay a small fee.
If there is a fee, you can expect to pay between 5 and 10 pesos (25 to 50 cents in US currency).
This is one reason to carry change with you at all times as they can’t always give you change if you have a large bill.
If you pay, then you will either be handed toilet paper or there is a dispenser right as you walk in.
You will not see toilet paper in individual stalls. Don’t make the mistake I did and be in a stall realizing there is no toilet paper…
Tip: Always carry small packs of Kleenex so that you never have to go without toilet paper in the event there isn’t any!
I also carry with me these awesome wet wipes for travel that kill 99.9% of germs as you don’t see hand soap every time. Plus, they are great to wipe hands after eating tasty street food!
5. Don’t Place Toilet Paper In The Toilet
Don’t flush used toilet paper down the toilet! Instead, place it in the trash can that is in each stall.
In most restrooms, the trash cans are emptied regularly. Mexico doesn’t have the same modern plumbing as in the U.S., lower water pressure, and in many cases running on a septic tank.
Of course, in upscale accommodations and restaurants, this is likely not the case but there are usually signs to let you know either way.
6. Know Which Restroom To Use
This might seem like a silly tip but hear me out as it isn’t always obvious which one to use! On a few occasions, I paused and almost went into the men’s restroom.
Most often, you will see the letter “M” which is for mujeres (women) and not for men! The letter “H” or hombres is the restroom for men to use.
Sometimes you will even see funny signs that help you out! When you are searching for a restroom to use, you will see one of the following terms used:
All three terms are used to reference a restroom so be aware that you can see any of these outside a bathroom.
7. Expect Delays And Protests
Part of traveling in any country is experiencing things that you aren’t familiar with and realizing you can’t expect common practices to be the same as at home.
In Mexico, it is fairly common in some areas to have protests and unfortunately, museums, monuments, and roads can be closed without notice. And places don’t update their websites so if you Google the museum or attraction it may say it is open when it isn’t.
I really only encountered protests in Oaxaca and Mexico City but you may encounter them in other cities too.
Every protest I saw was peaceful and I went on my way exploring just avoiding congested areas or following advice from locals. I was never worried about my safety at any time but be aware situations can always change.
That said, have patience and realize that if certain sites close there is nothing you can do about it. It’s part of traveling!
I was crushed when two big museums were closed the whole week I was in Mexico City but this gave me time to see more underrated attractions.
8. Museums And Attractions Are Closed On Mondays
Before visiting many cities in Mexico, I didn’t realize how many museums and attractions are closed on Mondays. That can also include restaurants and cafes.
It’s good to know this especially if you have limited time in a city and know you will be there on a Monday.
Do a little planning in advance to find attractions and activities open on Monday and save other attractions for the remainder of your stay.
On Sundays, museums in many cities are free to visit! So, take advantage of that but realize they will be more crowded for that reason.
9. Will My Phone Work In Mexico?
If you have T-Mobile as your phone carrier in the United States then you can use your phone the same in Mexico as at home.
I have T-Mobile and used my phone just fine but I admit it was pretty slow at times. For that reason, I choose to log into my Solis Lite hotspot and sometimes use the Wi-Fi at my hotel, restaurant, or café.
The Solis hotspot is especially great when I’m out and about and there isn’t any Wi-Fi available so I can use my maps, access emails, or request an Uber.
Another option for those with another carrier or coming from another country is to purchase a SIM card upon arrival in Mexico.
The largest mobile provider in Mexico is Telcel which has SIM cards you can buy and choose how much data you think you may need.
You can find a Telcel SIM card at OXXO stores (convenience stores like 7-Eleven) or at the airport. Getting it at an OXXO store will be much cheaper than at the airport.
Tip: In order to purchase a Telcel SIM card, you must have your phone unlocked before you travel to Mexico.
10. Carry A Portable Power Bank
More and more having access to wifi, travel apps, and maps are becoming an essential part of travel.
Especially as a solo traveler I really depend on mapping out my walks, taking photos, using Uber, Google Translate, and being able to search for anything making my phone my most important travel accessory.
Because I am using my phone throughout the day, it is inevitable that my battery dies and only lasts me to mid-day at best depending on how much I’m using it.
I am not about to go back to my hotel to charge it so instead, I ALWAYS carry this portable power bank that gets me through a long day of sightseeing with no problem.
I usually charge my phone 1 – 2 times as I am roaming a city and never have to worry that my phone is going to die when I need it the most!
11. Do I Need A VISA to visit Mexico?
No, not for the majority of visitors to Mexico.
Citizens of the United States, Canada, the UK, most EU countries, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and a few others don’t need a VISA to enter Mexico as long as their stay is less than 180 days.
If you plan to stay longer than 180 days then yes, you do need to obtain a VISA.
All you need to enter Mexico is a valid passport and hold onto the FMM form (tourist card you get at entry into Mexico).
12. Consider Using A VPN To Protect From Hackers
It seems more and more hackers are getting savvier when it comes to finding ways to hack your phone, computer, or any digital device you connect to public Wi-Fi.
Although it is a good idea to protect yourself from hackers at any time, you especially want to be careful if you access your bank accounts, credit cards, or information that would compromise you.
At home, this is likely not a problem but when traveling you are using public Wi-Fi on a daily basis putting yourself at risk.
This is where having a VPN (Virtual Private Network) comes into play.
A VPN creates a secure connection with public Wi-Fi that shields your vital and personal information from those that are looking to access it.
There are several VPNs available that you can purchase but I have only used the VPN via my Solis Lite hotspot.
Solis has partnered up with NordVPN so that your Solis hotspot has a built-in VPN and protects any device connected to it.
Note: Up to 10 devices can use the same Solis hotspot and have instant Wi-Fi.
Get your own Solis hotspot with a built-in VPN!
13. Get Permission When Taking Photos of Locals
This is a good rule of thumb in any country but more so in some cultures. In respecting the privacy of a local, ask permission to take their photograph or video of them.
I do this when I am close and it is obvious that they will be in my shot. If it is someone at a distance I will wait for people to clear or at least have their backs to me before taking a photograph.
If it is a massive crowd then I don’t as there is no way to ask every individual. For this reason, I enjoy getting up early to take photos of sights before the crowds appear.
14. Do I Need To Bring An Adapter?
If you are coming from the United States or Canada you do not need to bring a power adapter to Mexico as the outlets are the same.
You will see both Type A and B outlets just as you would at home. I charged my iPhone, Fitbit, and camera battery with no problems.
I even brought my flat iron for my hair and that was fine too. Just make sure whatever device you are charging doesn’t need a high voltage.
The standard voltage in Mexico is 127 V and similar to the United States at 120 V.
From another country? You will need to get a power adapter such as this one to use for charging your devices.
I personally love this one as you can charge multiple devices that include USB ports and vital when a room has limited outlets!
Staying Healthy Tips For Traveling to Mexico
15. Get Travel Insurance
I can’t recommend travel insurance enough when traveling out of the country these days. In recent years we have seen how getting sick can completely derail your travel plans and cost you a lot of money.
It wasn’t until I had a few disaster travel experiences and lost money for paid hotels, excursions, and more that I realized how important travel insurance is.
For a reasonable fee, you can rest feel assured that in the event you get sick, injured, or in any other accident, you will have financial protection.
That includes having to cancel a trip, delays, or getting support on the ground if something goes wrong.
And believe me, at some point things will go wrong… No amount of planning can prevent accidents all the time.
I really like using this travel insurance as they have a “cancel for any reason” as part of their plan. These days that is essential for me!
Note: In addition, it is a great travel insurance plan for those that are digital nomads as they have monthly and yearly plans.
16. Do I Need To Be Vaccinated To Travel To Mexico?
Currently, you do not need any vaccinations to travel to Mexico. But with that said, it is recommended to get the Covid vaccine to not only protect yourself but the locals in Mexico that don’t have access to the healthcare you might.
As of Fall 2022, you are required to wear a mask in almost all indoor establishments including museums, attractions, etc. unless eating or drinking in several regions of Mexico.
So, make sure you bring a few masks to put on in areas that require it and not be denied entry.
A temperature check and using provided hand sanitizer is a fairly common practice also.
I like to carry these wet wipes that prevent 99.9% of germs to clean my hands or surfaces.
17. Don’t Drink The Tap Water
For most this may seem obvious but if you haven’t traveled internationally it is a good rule of thumb not to drink tap water outside the United States.
And this is even more important in Mexico if you don’t want to get what is known as Montezuma’s Revenge aka traveler’s diarrhea. Don’t ignore this Mexico travel tip!
I’ve been there and it isn’t a fun or pretty experience resulting in you not leaving your bathroom for at least a few days.
Only drink filtered or bottled water! And if you do buy a bottle of water make sure the seal hasn’t been broken.
18. Carry A Filtered Water Bottle
Now that filtered water bottles are available it is an excellent way to filter water your water to ensure you don’t get sick.
Plus, it drastically cuts down on using disposable plastic water bottles.
I brought both a regular reusable water bottle and a filtered water bottle to Mexico and used my regular reusable water bottle most of the time as you can usually find jugs of filtered water in your hotels and in restaurants to fill it.
In some cases, I still buy disposable water bottles as they may be the only thing available but overall, I try my best to use reusable water bottles.
I like carrying two bottles as I can fill up the filtered water bottle and pour it into my regular reusable bottle as needed.
Explore the top filtered water bottles for your next trip!
19. Can I Drink Water And Ice At Restaurants?
At home, I prefer ice in my drinks but I tend to forgo ice when in other countries and the same goes with drinking water that isn’t bottled.
But on my most recent trip to Central Mexico, every restaurant, bar, and café over almost a month had filtered water.
What does that mean? You can order a glass of water as you would anywhere in the United States and with ice.
But if you are ever in doubt or it seems questionable, use your filtered water bottle to filter the water or say no to the ice.
If you are eating street food or from vendors in a market don’t expect to find filtered water and make sure you either filter or buy a bottle of water to avoid upsetting your belly!
20. Always Carry Sunscreen
If you look at Mexico on a map, the Tropic of Cancer runs horizontally through the middle of the country.
This means that the climate tends to be hot and dry and as you move south of the Tropic of Cancer the climate will feel very tropical.
Coming from San Diego, the sun always feels more intense in Mexico, especially the further south you go.
Too many times I forgot to wear sunscreen and got sunburned on the first day. To avoid getting burned, use plenty of sunscreen.
One area that I burn in more recent years is on the top of my head so I love using this head and scalp sunscreen spray that works great!
Outside of the beach communities, many cities tend to be at high elevations so again wearing sunscreen will help protect your skin.
21. How To Avoid Altitude Sickness
For years I only visited the popular beach towns in Mexico which are all at sea level and never realized how much of the country is at a very high elevation.
The elevation at popular cities in Mexico are:
- Oaxaca – 5,102 feet
- Guadalajara – 5,138 feet
- Taxco – 5,833 feet
- Queretaro – 5,971 feet
- Morelia – 6,299 feet
- Puebla – 7,005 feet
- Mexico City – 7,349 feet
If you are like me, I get sick with altitude sickness anytime I am above 5,000 feet and very sick above 7,000 feet.
So, when I learned that much of the central region of Mexico was above 5,000 feet I researched all the top natural ways to prevent or at least minimize altitude sickness.
I heard that taking chlorophyll pills daily would help build red blood cells thereby boosting my body’s ability to get more oxygen.
Usually, within a few hours at high altitude, I have the worst migraines, exhaustion, extreme nausea, and find it hard to breathe.
I started taking the chlorophyll pills a few days prior to my trip and took one in the morning and one in the evening daily.
I had mild headaches the first few days but that was it! The best reaction I have ever had at high altitude and I will never travel without these chlorophyll pills again.
No matter what, do take it easy the first few days to acclimate and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
Note: As with any supplement or drug, always consult a physician to make sure these won’t interfere with any current medications.
22. Stay Hydrated
Whether you are in a city with high altitude or basking on the beautiful beaches at sea level it can be easy to get dehydrated.
Having a reusable water bottle or a filtered water bottle with you when traveling in Mexico is very helpful to avoid getting sick and saves on the number of disposable water bottles.
At home, I drink a ton of water all day long but when traveling I notice I drink less because I get pleasantly distracted and forget to drink it!
Or I don’t want to drink too much water as I don’t want to worry about finding a bathroom if I’m in an area where they aren’t prevalent.
One product that I love using to stay hydrated and use when at high elevations are these hydration packs that you add to water.
Adding one pack of 16 ounces of water is equivalent to drinking several glasses of water!
23. Have Basic Over The Counter Meds
It is pretty common that I get a cold and or ear infection on most trips especially when I have been scuba diving a lot.
For that reason, I tend to travel with a pharmacy! Ok, not really but I travel prepared.
I carry all the essential over-the-counter meds you can think of such as Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Sudafed, Imodium, and some others that can really make a difference if you are feeling under the weather.
If you forget something, there are many pharmacies (farmacias) in each town that will have most items you will need.
Tip: Not sure what a certain OTC is called in Spanish? Use Google Translate!
24. Consider Getting A Jase Case
A JASE Case is a small pack or case from JASE Medical that contains the most essential antibiotics that one might need when traveling abroad.
In many countries, the level of healthcare might not be available to what you are used to at home, and in remote areas likely non-existent.
If you come down with an infection, having quick access to life-saving medications with you while you travel is priceless.
Think of it as a tiny pharmacy of the go-to antibiotics for the most common and potentially deadly infections you can experience while traveling internationally.
No need to go to a doctor, you simply complete an online evaluation with a physician and before you know it, a JASE Case arrives!
Until you experience a medical emergency or just get really sick on the road, it might not seem like something you need.
But I have been in a tiny rural hospital in Panama where they were giving the best care they had available but with expired medications and ones no longer used in the United States.
With a JASE Case you don’t need to worry about that scenario when you are in another country. In each case there are five different antibiotics that will last around five years as long as they are stored properly.
On my recent trip to Mexico, I got a nasty ear infection at high altitude and it would have been dangerous if I hadn’t started the antibiotics ASAP. Although I had no intention of using it this soon, I am very thankful that I did!
Note: I did receive this JASE Case as part of a partnership but as always opinions are all mine and from my own personal use.
Get your JASE Case in preparation for your next trip abroad!
25. Prevent Mosquito Bites
If you tend to get bitten by mosquitos wherever you go then consider bringing mosquito spray or mosquito wipes. It’s never fun getting tons of bites!
Many areas of Mexico are tropical, especially in beach areas, the Yucatan region, and the Oaxaca region. It never hurts to throw mosquito spray or wipes in your bag just in case.
Mexico Travel Money Tips
26. ATMs Give You The Best Exchange Rate
There isn’t a need to bring a lot of US dollars to Mexico and change it once you arrive.
You will get a better exchange rate if you go to an ATM and pull money out instead. You can select the amount of pesos you want to take out.
The max you can take out at a time is usually 6,000 pesos which is around $300 (but varies of course).
Most airports will have ATMs after you get your luggage. It’s nice to have a little cash (pesos) to hold you over especially if you arrive at night.
Each city will have banks with a section inside for ATMs. Make sure you always go inside!
Never access an ATM out on the street as you may put yourself at more risk of being pickpocketed.
Tip: I like to use the XE Currency app which is quick and easy to show the conversion rate between different currencies.
27. Don’t Accept The Conversion Rate
When using an ATM and before you finish the transaction, you will get a prompt with two options, decline or accept conversion.
Always choose “decline conversion”!
And yes, you can still get money out by selecting decline conversion. Learning this was the best advice for traveling to Mexico.
If you accept, you are using their conversion rate which is usually a lot worse. If you decline, you will save yourself a good amount of money and get the conversion rate you are expecting.
Before I learned this I thought I had to accept in order for the transaction to go through but that isn’t true.
And this is a tip that you can use in ANY country!
Note: Depending on your bank, you still might be charged a fee to use the ATM but this is completely separate from the conversion rate choices above.
Tip: If you have multiple banks find out what they charge if anything to pull money out of an ATM abroad. That way you know which one has the lowest or no fee and stick to using that one.
28. Always Carry Pesos
I can’t speak for all countries but coming from the United States I never have cash on me as I pay for everything with a credit card.
But in Mexico, most museums, attractions, some restaurants and bars, markets, public bathrooms, and street vendors will only take cash (pesos). And have exact change otherwise you might be paying more than you wish.
So, make sure you have plenty of pesos for all the needs you might have for the day.
I usually carry on me between 500 and 700 pesos (~ $25 to $35 US Dollars) if I know I will be out all day and leave additional cash back in my room.
At an ATM you will usually receive 200 and 500 bill pesos. At the first chance you get try to break them into smaller denominations like 20, 50, and 100 bill pesos.
It can be challenging to find places to have change for a 500 bill. Usually, a sit-down restaurant or your hotel will be the best option.
Tips: If you will be taking a lot of taxis and Uber isn’t an option then consider carrying more pesos.
When you get change, make sure no bills are ripped and they aren’t fake. I went to pay for a tour to have the driver tell me it was no good. Upon further inspection and feeling it, it was obvious it was printed on paper!
If a bill is ripped, you may encounter vendors who refuse to take it. This happened to me multiple times so check the condition of the bills!
29. Pay In Pesos And Not Dollars
Most places in Mexico won’t accept U.S. dollars, especially smaller establishments. Avoid paying in U.S. dollars!
If you pay in dollars you will get a worse conversion rate and end up paying more for an item or service than if you had paid in pesos.
Tip: In shops, restaurants, cafes, and pretty much everywhere you go you might notice that prices seem to be in U.S. dollars with the $ sign.
They aren’t in dollars! For example, the price of a meal is $150. That is 150 pesos and not dollars. It can be confusing at first but you quickly get used to it.
30. How Much Do I Tip In Mexico?
Tipping really does vary from country to country but in Mexico, the standard tipping rate is between 15% to 20% at restaurants and bars.
If you are enjoying street food, small vendors, and taxis then 10% to 15% is acceptable.
Most of the time I gave a 20% tip as the meals were so cheap that I felt guilty giving anything less. And the locals very much appreciate it when you do!
How To Get Around Mexico
31. Taking The Bus Is Safe And Easy
Before my most recent trip to Mexico, I hadn’t taken a bus from one city to another and wasn’t sure how safe or easy it would be.
But after hearing good things about traveling by bus in Mexico I decided it made the most sense and was very affordable.
You can take a bus from almost any city to another within Mexico and in my opinion much safer than driving a car. Driving in Mexico isn’t for the faint of heart, especially in the cities.
The bus routes I took were from Oaxaca to Puebla, Puebla to Taxco (via Cuernavaca), and Taxco to Mexico City.
Each bus ride ranged between 3.5 and 6 hours, was relaxing, and seamless from starting point to arrival.
On each bus, I was the only foreigner traveling (solo) and I felt completely safe and at ease the entire time.
Tip: For bags that will be checked under the bus, I use these TSA Approved locks or whenever they are out of my sight.
32. Book Bus Tickets At Bus Station
I’m a planner and like to book all the big stuff like airfare, hotels, trains, and buses ahead of time so I don’t need to worry if I can get a specific day or time.
Unfortunately, you can’t book a bus ticket online ahead of time unless you have a Mexican credit card or debit card.
There are a few sites that you can book a ticket with but after hearing about bookings that were never processed through these sites I decided to wing it upon arrival.
Unless it is a major holiday you can purchase your bus ticket at the bus station once you arrive in Mexico. Plan to be in one city for a few days? Go to the bus station on your first day and book a ticket for the day you plan to leave.
I did that a few times but on one occasion I showed up an hour early and purchased my bus ticket the day of and had no problem.
Note: If you are taking a popular route such as to and from Mexico City or on a holiday consider buying your ticket at least a day in advance as they may fill up.
Tip: There is a good chance the attendant won’t speak English so type into Google Translate ahead of time the destination, day, and time you want a ticket for.
33. Take A Primera Or Luxury Bus
I recommend looking at the bus schedule ahead of time so you know what to tell the bus attendant at the station.
There are different classes of buses with primera or first class the nicest buses and the ones that I took.
Each bus was very nice, clean, with comfortable seats, movies playing (in Spanish), and in some cases a bottle of water as you board.
Depending on which city you are coming and going from, will determine which bus company you take.
The main bus companies with primera class buses are ADO, ORO (Estrella and Blanco), and Costaline.
If you have luggage that won’t fit above your next no problem as you can check your luggage to be put underneath the bus.
Before you board they will take your bags, tag them, and give you the other half of the tags. Hold on to the tags as they do check each bag before letting you take off with them at your destination.
Tip: If available look for buses that are directo or direct as they will get you to your destination quicker.
And be aware that sometimes there is more than one bus station per city so check the schedule ahead of time to know which one you want.
34. Renting A Car
I have only rented a car a few times in Mexico but as a solo traveler, I prefer traveling by bus or plane within Mexico.
If you have never driven outside of the country, keep in mind it will be a little more stressful depending on where you are.
I have driven from Cabo to La Paz and it was a breeze with nice roads and also in Cancun and the surrounding area.
But in other regions or in big cities like Mexico City I would not want to drive. And I lived and drove in NYC for close to five years!
If you do decide to rent a car make sure you book with a reputable and well-known car rental company.
When booking online, it is more economical to select and pay for the insurance rather than buying it onsite.
Before taking off in your rental car, make sure you check for any dents and scratches and note it with the company before taking off otherwise they may claim it happened while you were driving.
Tip: Avoid driving at night and never leave valuables in the car.
35. Taking A Domestic Flight Within Mexico
If a bus ride is 5 hours or less, I prefer taking a bus as it is just as comfortable and more economical than flying.
But with longer distances, you can easily get from one city to the next via one of the popular airlines such as Volaris or Aeromexico.
36. Use Uber When Available
If Uber is available in the city you are traveling in, I recommend taking it for a few reasons. But the main reason is so I can save my pesos as it charges my credit card. I have never hopped into a taxi in Mexico that took a credit card so using Uber is nice.
Those that don’t speak Spanish might struggle to tell a taxi driver where they are going but with Uber, you have conveniently entered your destination and you can track your ride on the map.
Plus, as a solo female traveler, I feel a little safer taking an Uber on average as my ride is tracked and the cars are usually nicer.
This isn’t every city and it may change but popular cities that have Uber are:
- Mexico City
- Los Cabos
- La Paz
- San Miguel de Allende
Tip: I use this wifi hotspot so that I can always have access to wifi and use Uber when traveling.
37. What To Know About Taking A Taxi
When you are taking a taxi in any city, confirm with the driver an agreed-upon amount before you get in.
If you wait until your destination you really can’t argue too much about the charge. I have made this mistake and learned the hard way.
To avoid very high charges, know the amount ahead of time. And if the price seems too high, say no thank you and find another.
Most taxis do not have working meters and if they do, ask for a specific amount and don’t go by the meter as it might not be accurate.
Taxis only take pesos so make sure you have cash with you! And have small bills as they usually can’t break a larger bill. Again, I learned this the hard way and gave a very generous tip…
Tip: Ask your hotel or a local guide how much a typical ride should be to an “x” destination. This helped me out a bunch so I didn’t get overcharged.
Tips For Solo Travel In Mexico
38. Take Tours To Connect With Locals
I have noticed that when I am traveling solo I tend to connect with locals much more than when I’m traveling with others.
One of the best ways to quickly connect with locals and find out the best places to eat or visit is from a local guide.
I recommend taking a tour on your first day to acclimate to the city, learn about the history and maybe try great food you would otherwise have avoided.
Taking a tour not only gives you the chance to meet a local but potentially other solo travelers that might be on the tour also.
Local guides may also invite you out with them after the tour and introduce you to their network of friends.
At the very least they can give you recommendations on the best spots to meet locals such as cafes.
My favorite is taking food tours and free walking tours held in most cities as they are great ways to meet others and a fun way to learn about a city.
39. Find Out What Neighborhoods Are Not Safe
Before arriving in a new city, I always research which neighborhoods are not safe and which are best to avoid.
Every city in the world has a good part of town and a not-so-great section. No matter what country you are in, I think it is smart to be aware of the areas that might lead to safety issues for solo female travelers.
When taking a tour with a guide, I always inquire about the areas of the city I should stay clear of as a local will know best!
40. Avoid Going Out Late Alone
As a female traveling by herself, I tend to avoid going out at night unless I’m on a tour or it is within a few blocks of where I am staying.
Partly because I am exhausted from a fun day of touring and partly for my safety. When traveling solo I tend to stop at a bar for drinks in the afternoon rather than go out to bars late at night.
That way I have no issues walking back during daylight and I’m less likely to encounter any issues.
If you do go out late at night, text a friend or family member where you are going and that you will message when you get back.
I’ve done this and there is comfort in knowing someone knows my whereabouts. I have heard of other female travelers leaving a note of where they are going in their room that a maid can easily see.
41. Keep An Eye Out For Your Drink
No matter what time of day you may be out enjoying a cocktail, always keep an eye on your drink.
And although it is nice to have someone buy me a drink, I decline the offer if I am out by myself.
If you are enjoying your beer, wine, or cocktail and need to use the restroom, don’t leave it behind. Take it with you as you never know what someone put into it while you were away.
Tip: If you are leaving a bar or club late at night, consider getting an Uber if possible rather than walking alone.
42. Carry A Crossbody Purse
I travel with both a purse and backpack alternating between the two depending on where I am going or the type of activity.
In Mexico, if you visit any of the markets or in very crowded areas, I recommend using a crossbody purse that stays in front of you at all times.
In busy locations, wearing a backpack is more likely to lead to theft and just get in the way. Instead, wearing a crossbody purse is much easier!
At all the markets I visited spaces are tight to maneuver between vendor stalls and wearing a backpack would likely bump or knock over items.
This is an awesome and durable crossbody bag for travel that is also moisture and stain-resistant!
43. Use A Backpack That Is Slash Proof
When traveling with a backpack, consider getting one that is slash proof especially if you will be in cities or countries that are known for pickpockets and left.
Although I felt completely safe everywhere I went in Mexico, there are busy areas where it is known for people to slash your bag.
All your items fall out sadly without your knowing. To avoid your chances of encountering theft, use a slash-proof backpack such as this one for women that will keep your items safe!
Or this anti-theft backpack which is more gender-neutral.
44. Hide Essentials In A Travel Belt
If you are out taking a walk or run and don’t want to carry a bag, putting your ID, money, and phone into a travel belt that is easily concealed comes in handy.
I usually keep my passport and extra money back in my room but on days that I am moving from one city to another, I like to store my passport, extra cash, and a few credit cards in a travel belt.
That way in the off chance that a bag gets lost or stolen I have the vital essentials on me and under my clothes.
Mexico Packing Tips
45. Dress Conservatively
Outside of the beach resort towns like Cabo, Cancun, Tulum, and Puerto Vallarta you want to dress conservatively.
In towns where wearing bathing suits and beach coverups are not the norms, skimpy clothing isn’t recommended. It will only draw unwanted attention and you will definitely stick out as a tourist.
And the same goes for wearing luxury designer brands that might signal to a pickpocket that you are wealthy and carrying a lot of cash and/or valuables. Best to leave designer labels at home.
46. Wear Comfortable Shoes
Unless you are just planning to relax at a resort by the beach, you will likely be doing a ton of walking.
In cities such as Puebla, Mexico City, and Guadalajara you can easily rack up anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 steps a day exploring.
It isn’t uncommon for streets to be cobblestoned so having very comfortable shoes will make a huge difference by the end of the day.
You will quickly notice that streets have many holes, uneven levels, and broken-up walkways that require good walking shoes to navigate.
I have two pairs of shoes that make walking all day so comfortable and that I can’t travel without.
This pair of walking shoes are by far the most comfortable pair of shoes I have ever owned and wear on days when it isn’t raining.
On days that are rainy or in an area that is wet such as near waterfalls I prefer this pair of shoes that have great traction so I don’t slip.
Read a full review of the shoes here!
47. Bring Shoe Bags
Not limited to just Mexico, but when I am doing a ton of walking on city streets, in markets, and in public bathrooms the last thing I want to do is throw my shoes into my suitcase.
Besides the unsanitary aspect, it just plain grosses me out to get my clean clothes and items unnecessarily dirty.
For this reason, I always travel with multiple pairs of shoe bags for every pair I bring!
Tip: Bring an extra one to store a wet bathing suit in!
48. Don’t Carry Expensive Jewelry Or Other Items
In line with not dressing flashy and avoiding wearing brand names, leave really valuable jewelry at home. Or wear jewelry that doesn’t have much value in case you lose it or it gets stolen.
I tend to wear one pair of small diamond stud earrings and that is about it. I sometimes bring a few necklaces but again nothing I wouldn’t be devastated to part with.
49. Use A Reusable Shopping Bag
On my last few trips, I started using a reusable shopping bag and love it! It is really nice to be out shopping for food, drinks, or souvenirs and have a bag to put everything in.
Not only is it useful but it can cut down on disposable plastic reducing waste you might normally accumulate on a trip.
And I have found that many small shops and street vendors don’t have bags so having a reusable shopping bag is needed.
I like this bag as it can hold a lot of items and folds up super small. I now put one in both my purse and backpack.
Bringing only one I would inevitably forget in the bag I left back in the room so now having two I’m always set.
Tip: An additional reusable bag I like to bring is this cute laundry bag. It makes it easy to keep my dirty clothes separated and can hold a lot when having laundry done.
50. Use TSA Approved Locks
When checking bags, I use these TSA-approved locks for my luggage but I also use them for when I am taking a bus and know my bags will be out of my sight.
Although I have not ever encountered theft in my room, I will use the locks to lock any valuables I might have in my luggage when I am out.
51. Consider Buying AirTags
If you check your bags at the airport as I do, there is always a concern about whether your bags will be at your destination when you arrive.
I have had my bags delayed numerous times but always received them within 48 hours. It wasn’t until 2022, that I grew more concerned about whether I’d ever see my bags again.
Due to a record number of people losing their bags I decided to buy a few AirTags in preparation for my trip to Mexico.
Once you sync the AirTag with your phone, you can place them in any luggage that you are checking or just want to track.
I didn’t have any issues with my bags arriving on any of the legs but loved having the peace of mind that I could track them in the event they went missing.
When I landed each time, I received a notification that my bags were in the same city, hoorah!
Tip: You may want to turn off the notifications once you are at your destination otherwise you will get an alert every time you leave your room that your bags are no longer near you…
52. Carry A Hat To Shield From The Sun
If you are coming from the United States, Canada, or Europe, you will notice that the sun is more intense with hotter temperatures than you may be used to.
With many cities in Mexico below the Tropic of Cancer throw a hat in your bag to protect your face from the sun.
53. Bring A Travel Umbrella or Light Rain Jacket
The majority of Mexico especially along the coastal or bottom portion of the country will have a tropical climate.
In the tropics, rain is fairly routine but more so during the rainy season from May to September. But even in the rainy season, the rain is minimal and usually doesn’t ruin a day of sightseeing as the temperatures are still warm.
I found that many days in the rainy season are perfect until the late afternoon and early evening when almost like clockwork it would rain. It usually lasts from a few minutes to a few hours.
As the rain can come unexpectedly, I always carry a compact travel umbrella or rain jacket that doesn’t take up hardly any room in my bag.
54. Use Packing Cubes
I was skeptical of how much of a difference packing cubes would make but after hearing rave reviews I gave them a try about 5 years ago.
And I agree they really do make packing easier and you can get more into a suitcase if you roll your clothes within the cubes.
I like having a few different sizes depending on what I am packing. These packing cubes can expand which is really useful.
55. Pack Earplugs
If you are a light sleeper waking up at the slightest noise, having earplugs can be a lifesaver when it’s noisy and all you want to do is get some rest.
In almost every city in Mexico, there is a main town square or zocalo where there are festivities, people gathering, and lots of activity in general. The main church will also be along the zocalo.
For proximity to the central historic district, I thought it would be fabulous to stay in a hotel right on the main square.
Now the hotel and the views of the zocalo were amazing but I hadn’t thought about the potential noise late at night and in the very early morning hours.
I still loved my stay for the location but there was music and people gathering until around midnight or later and people cleaning or gathering in the wee hours making a long night’s rest a struggle without earplugs.
Just in case I bring earplugs with me so that I can count on getting the sleep I need no matter where I stay!
Handy Phrases In Spanish
In a majority of towns outside a few beach resort cities, English is not widely spoken so it is helpful to learn some basic words and phrases in Spanish. And when that fails, you can fall back on Google Translate!
- Hello – Hola
- Good day – Buenos dias
- Good afternoon – Buenos tardes
- Good evening – Buenos noches
- Thank you – Gracias
- Goodbye – Adios
- You’re welcome – De nada
- Please – Por favor
- How much is it? – Cuanto es?
- Where is? – Donde esta?
- The restroom – El bano
- Glass of water – Vaso de agua (if you want still or natural water, add “sin gas” or no gas)
- Pardon me – Perdoname
- Cheers – Salud
I hope you find these tips for traveling to Mexico helpful!
Got Travel Insurance?
After a few unfortunate illnesses and emergencies where I traveled without travel insurance, I have felt the pain of being out a lot of money and the added stress. Since then, I never travel out of the country without travel insurance for peace of mind and protection.
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I had no idea about the M and H on the toilets and that’s need to know information! Ahaha
Thank you for this comprehensive list! It will really help my future trips
You’re welcome! Haha yes, knowing bathroom etiquette and which one to use is very helpful! 🙂
This post is EPIC! So much useful information here! I love Mexico : ) I will definitely refer to this post when I go back!
Thank you so much! I tried to put all the things I was confused about or wish I had known prior to visiting into it. And yes, Mexico is awesome! 🙂
Lots of useful tips for a trip to Mexico & the one about not accepting the conversion rate at ATMs will be really helpful! Thank you!
I’m glad you find the tips for traveling to Mexico helpful! Yes, declining the conversion rate was an eye-opener when I learned about it. 🙂
I travel to Mexico frequently but learned some great tips! My niece lost her luggage recently when flying to Europe (and didn’t get it back until two weeks later and the day before flying home) so now I know what to get her as a Christmas present! And I love the idea of the Jase case (and LOVE Aunt Fannie’s mosquito wipes…they are the best!).
Thanks Karen! Omg, losing my luggage has been a big fear this year and although I had no problems it is really nice knowing where they are. I think that will be a great gift for her! A JASE case is super helpful especially for anyone that travels a lot or in a remote area for sure. 🙂
A lot of really good tips. While I always travel with a med kit, I have purchased prescription-type meds in Mexico without a prescription. This is useful if you want to put an a type of antibiotic in your kit that normal requires a script.
Thank you! Yes, you can definitely get a lot of things without a script but there have been a few I couldn’t unfortunately. 🙂
It has been a long time since we last visited Mexico. So this list of tips was a great reminder. Keeping the form you need to exit is something I am sure many people miss. I am always careful about water and things like fresh veggies washed in water. Having been sick travelling too many times, I prefer not to risk things. But I normally have not worried about altitude sickness. Some great tips!
Thank you! Yes, keeping the FMM form is so important and easy to misplace. I agree, I’d rather be cautious with water than not but in recent years it has become normal to have filtered water for guests in hotels and restaurants in Mexico which is super nice! You are so lucky altitude doesn’t get to you, a nice bonus when traveling at high elevations. 🙂
When I was in Puerto Vallarta in 2019, it seemed like quite a few places were happy to take American dollars. (Even so, I think it is best to pay in local currency wherever one is.) Also, they had some pretty nice little pharmacies where you can buy a lot of common medications if needed.
Sooo many good ideas here! I have never even heard of the MPC app (I wonder if non-Americans can use it too!?) and I like the sound of a Jase Case – that sounds like it could be useful for quite a few destinations! I’m glad your ear infection was okay in the end!
Thank you! The MPC can be used only by U.S. citizens and Canadian B1/B2 citizens at least for now. I was very thankful I had instant access to antibiotics and knock out my ear infection too. The JASE case is super handy for several countries that are more remote or don’t have current healthcare conditions. 🙂
This is such a helpful blog post! We just had friends return from Mexico, and they got sick from brushing their teeth with tap water, so avoiding it is a great tip! It’s also good to know museums are closed on Mondays when planning a travel itinerary. Thanks for sharing!
You’re welcome! Yes, drinking tap water is a huge mistake to avoid. Lol. Planning around closed days can definitely make an itinerary less stressful! 🙂