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Practical information Mexico

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile

Mexico : Travel Information before you go!

Area

759531 sq.mi

Languages

Spanish is the national language, it is spoken throughout the country, but with a slower and more tuneful rhythm than in Spain. English is widely used in large tourist zones and hotels (especially in Baja California) and in some remote regions, numerous Indian dialects are still in common use and a small part of the population doesn't actually speak Spanish.

Population

106,345,034 inhabitants

Flights

  • Baja California :

    A direct flight from London to Mexico City is 14 hours long. Mexico is 5,252 mi away from London. There are three international airports on the peninsula: Tijuana, La Paz and Los Cabos. British airways provides direct fligths to Mexico from London. They schedule three to four flights a week.
  • Continental Mexico :

    A direct flight from London to Mexico City is 14 hours long. Mexico City is 5,252 mi from London. British Airways provides direct flights to Mexico, from London, and schedules 3 to 4 flights a week.
  • Yucatan :

    A direct flight from London to Mexico City is 14 hours long. Mexico City is 5,252 mi from London. British Airways provides direct flights to Mexico, from London. British Airways operate a daily flight from London Heathrow to Cancun via Miami. Continental Airlines offers numerous daily flights London-Cancun via Houston. Some charter airlines operate direct flights London-Cancun.

Required travel documents for Mexico

A visa is not needed for a tourist trip of less than 90 days, but you do need to have a passport which is valid for at least 6 months after the return date, as well as a return ticket or a ticket leaving for another destination, plus the tourist migratory form (TMF). The TMF is available in all Mexican consulates, at airline counters or at the migration offices at the points of arrival on Mexican territory.

The Mexican authorities have suspended the rules which came into effect in May 2011 requiring children under 18 years of age travelling alone, or accompanied by an adult who is not the parent or legal guardian, to apply for a special permit to leave the country.

Religion

More than 95% of Mexicans are assiduous Catholic church-goers and about 4% are Protestants. However, this kind of Catholicism has become a hybrid, with the integration of many ancestral Indian rites. Thus, fascination for death, inherited by pre-Columbian civilisations, and some elements which are vital to the Indians, are often found in church decorations.
Some traditional rites are perpetuated among some of the remote ethnic groups: the Huichol consume peyotl for its hallucinogenic virtues, and the Voladores perform fertility rites in Papantla. Finally, the healing sorcerer, or 'brujo', is a very important character in rural life. This country is testimony to spectacular syncretism, particularly in some villages of Chiapas.

Currency

The currency is the Nuevo Peso (N$), which is available in notes in denominations of 20, 50 and 100 N$. It is best to keep small change on you (small shops, taxis and street sellers rarely have the exact change for large amounts of cash), as well as small amounts of American Dollars. If possible, bring travellers cheques in US Dollars; foreign currencies are exchanged in banks and bureaux de change but the Dollar is more widely accepted than the Euro. The main bank cards (Visa, MasterCard-Eurocard and Amex) are accepted in most hotels, restaurants, and shops in tourist areas and you'll find plenty of ATM machines in the towns. Some shops which accept payment by credit card apply a surcharge of 4-6%. Banks are open from Monday to Friday, from 9:00am to 1:00pm and from 4:00pm to 7:00pm.

Transport

Flights: most Mexican international flights land at Mexico City airport, and domestic flights go to all the cities in the country. Since the distances are quite long, flying remains the best way to travel fast in Mexico, but you must book in advance.
By coach: frequent and punctual coach lines link up all the cities, for very reasonable prices. Favour the 'De Lujo' (de luxe) coaches or the 'Primera clase' (1st class) rather than the 'Segunda clase" (2nd class) coaches, as they are more comfortable, with air conditioning and fewer stops.
Driving: car rental facilities (for 21+ years old) can be found at all large seaside resort airports. Make sure that you have your national driving license with you, together with a credit card and your passport. Bottom of the range car rental (Nissan Tsuru or Volkswagen Beetle) is affordable, as is the price of petrol (with Mexico being an important oil producing country).
The general state of the roads, apart from the large motorways, is not quite satisfactory and the speed is strictly limited to 20-30 miles/h in built up areas, 55 miles/h on main roads and 75 miles/h on motorways. Fast drivers, beware of the 'topes' (speed bumps) which mark the entrance to towns and villages and control the driving at night. In the day time, do not pull over if somebody waves you down.

Health

General recommendations: no particular vaccine is required and anti-malaria treatment is unnecessary. In the tropical regions along the coastline, wear long-sleeved clothes, especially during the rain season, and as soon as the sun sets wear clothes that cover your legs and arms and smear your feet, hands and neck with repellent cream (a mosquito net could become a faithful friend).
Also, be careful of sun burn, particularly on Yucatan's south coast and in Baja California.
As far as food is concerned, gastrointestinal diseases are fairly common when tourists do not take precautions or are unaccustomed to local culinary traditions. You are advised against consuming citrus fruit or seafood in shops that do not follow all of the hygiene measures and drink bottled mineral water rather than tap water, with no ice cubes. Also avoid eating ice creams and sorbets.
Bring anti-diarrheic medicines with you; cholera is not an endemic disease but it has not been totally eradicated. The measures to be taken to avoid contracting it (the same goes for any diarrheic disease, which is common to the whole territory as well as in marshy or tropical regions) are based on good hygiene: wash your hands frequently, especially before meals, drink bottled mineral water or boiled water (water purification tablets are also available in all supermarkets) , consume peeled, disinfected or cooked fruit and vegetables and eat well-cooked or fried sea food or fish.

Electricity

Voltage of 110 V. A power transformer and adapter for US electrical outlets (two flat pins) are essential. It is recommended that you buy the current transformer before leaving because it is very expensive if you buy it once you're in the country. The same goes for batteries, they cost a fortune in Mexico.

Attendance

A little over 20 million foreign tourists visited Mexico in 2005 (10% more than the year before), 90% of which were from the US. The UK comes in 4th position, after Spain, before France.

Taxes

All local prices include value added tax. A tax of MXN120 (5.90) applies to international flights leaving from Mexico, usually included in the cost of the plane ticket. Service is usually included, but restaurants and hotels in the main seaside resorts work with the ?propina' system (a 10 to 15% tip). Regarding bargaining in markets, lowering the price by 20 to 30% is a frequent custom and part of the trade. In Fonatur's official art galleries, however, (which are affiliated with the Mexican Ministry of Tourism), they apply fixed prices.

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