The USA’s southern neighbor, Mexico has long been a desirable travel destination. It has something for everyone, with an area about three times the size of Texas. It’s a remarkably varied country, with high, dry plateaus, and low, lush coastal plains. Whether you go for the gorgeous beaches, the spicy food, the diverse rainforests, or the amazing pre-Columbian history, you’re sure to have the experience of a lifetime.
Languages: Mexican Peso
Airport: City International Airport, Cancún International Airport, Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla Airport in Guadalajara. There are also major airports in Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Monterey, and Tijuana.
Time Zone:Most of Mexico is in the Central Time Zone, but a substantial part of the country is on Mountain Time, and Baja California is on Pacific Time. Most, but not all, of the country observes Daylight Saving Time, so it is best to check before you book or travel.
WHERE TO STAY
The most popular destinations in Mexico are pretty much all along the Riviera Maya, a strip of shoreline on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. It includes Cancún and Playa del Carmen, and the island of Cozumel is just offshore. It is home to a large number of high-end and all-inclusive resorts, all with beautiful beaches and views of the Caribbean. The offshore barrier reef is a big attraction, and all manner of watersports are on offer, along with jungle tours, zip lining, and horseback riding. Many resorts also offer excursions to Mayan ruins like Chichen Itza.
The rest of Mexico is easily divided into regions. The north is dry and desert-like, with hot summers and bitterly cold winters, especially around the mountains. Central Mexico is home to Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterey, and is the most densely populated region. The region is almost entirely located on an enormous plateau. Southern Mexico is where most of the agricultural industry is located, as well as the country’s mines. Two mountain chains and a volcanic belt are other features, and in the west are the coastal lowlands around Acapulco, a popular tourist destination. The Baja California peninsula is the longest peninsula in the world, and the south is home to Los Cabos, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, along with the Riviera Maya.
You might think you’re pretty familiar with Mexican food, but think again. Real Mexican food is an amazing fusion of pre-Columbian traditional food and Spanish cuisine. Because the country is so large, food varies greatly by region. In the southeast, there is emphasis on spicy food, but in the Yucatán there is a preference for sweet spice mixes. Areas along the coast use a lot of seafood, but in the north carne asada (a beef dish) reigns supreme. The national constant, though, is street food. Tacos, quesadillas, tamales – all can be procured at fabulously low prices and keep you going through a hot Mexican afternoon. If you’re planning on drinking, tequila is the obvious choice, but you could also try mescal, famous for being produced with a worm at the bottom of the bottle.
Unlike temperate weather zones, Mexico has only two major seasons – rainy and dry. The rainy season runs from May to October, and the dry season lasts from November to April. Even in the rainy season, though, the north of the country is rarely affected. Hurricane season (June-October) is most serious in the Yucatán Peninsula and the south Pacific coast. Most of the country is very hot in summer.
INSIDER TIPS FROM OUR TRAVEL EXPERTS
These days, Mexico is generally very safe for tourists. That said, it is wise to do everything possible to comply with local laws and regulations, avoid drugs and those who deal in them, and exercise caution when outside populated areas. Women travelling alone should also be cautious. In all, though, Mexico is a fantastic destination, not simply for its beaches and sun, but for its people and their traditions. Savvy visitors will find that a little bit of research into the country’s history and customs will go a long way towards making their trip even more memorable.