Bags of culture. Decent public transport. Good value. Chatty residents. All these make Mexico one of my favourite destinations. Here are 11 tips for travel in Mexico beyond the all-inclusive resorts.
Getting around – 11 tips for travel in Mexico
Collectivos / combi vans are a steal for local transport (think camper van of the VW or Toyota Hiace variety). They ply set routes, and will stop at every lamppost along that route if that’s where their passengers are.
They’ll pomp their horn when approaching you if they think you’re in need of a lift. Flag one with your arm parallel to the road and with a downward motion. A bit like you’re a one-winged flapping bird. It works.
There are old VWs everywhere, particularly in the south and the capital. Beetles are a fave and are abound in Taxco and Mexico City. Don’t hail one as your taxi in the latter though – calling a cab there or taking the tube (subway) is a better bet on the safety front. Hailing’s the norm everywhere else. In the south negotiate the price first. Further north (in places such as Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí, Aguascalientes), meters are used.
Time is a bit of an alien concept. A 10am bus can depart at 10.20am or 9.50am (probably the former).
Food and drink – 11 tips for travel in Mexico
All meals are accompanied by tortillas, including breakfast. Scrambled egg with tortilla, anyone? They’ll be your new favourite carb.
5. Unusual food options
If you fancy a bit of off-piste food, then ant larvae and chillied grasshoppers are amongst the local specialties. Mole poblano (mole means sauce, poblano means it’s a specialty of the city of Pueblo), is a less scary local food prospect. Apparently there are 17 ingredients it its sauce, including the famed Mexican chocolate. Yum.
You can always find a freshly squeezed fruit juice. The markets are a good bet. Don’t be surprised if it’s presented to you in a plastic bag with a straw if you ask for it “to go”.
Wildlife – 11 tips for travel in Mexico
Hotel and hostel rooms all have a small resident lizard. They’re quite cute.
Cockerels. Godamn those cockerels (roosters) with no concept of when dawn is. Owning one is a macho thing, apparently. Take earplugs, particularly in more rural towns and villages.
Local people – 11 tips for travel in Mexico
On the Yucátan peninsula, you may well be a giant by local Mayan standards. At five foot ten I am practically Godzilla. Trying to blend in is futile (though you can help by not dressing as though you’re on the beach. Unless you’re on the beach).
10. Pack a phrase book
People are chatty, and often just want to practice their English. Or have a natter to you in Spanish (a few words go a long way). Mexico’s a country where you soon learn to get over yourself when it comes to talking to random strangers.
11. Family affair
Mexicans enjoy their family time and value family life. Go where the locals go on their Sunday family day out – there are a myriad of cultural outings and day-trip opportunities from every town – and get chatting!
Check out this suggested itinerary for how to spend a month in Mexico.
In my opinion Mexico gets an undeserved bad press. Like most countries there are places (and parts of cities) to avoid, but the majority of Mexico – particularly areas frequented by tourists – is safe to explore. You can check out your government’s foreign office website (this is the UK’s) for the latest travel advice.