Pre-Columbian land, conquered five centuries ago by the Spaniards, Mexico is a fascinating and inexhaustible destination for tourism. Visitors travel from sumptuous archaeological remains of civilisations now extinct to the stunning Hispanic architecture. Let's ignore the distances! The unquestionable diversity in Mexican scenery takes us then from desert sierra to tropical forest, from the central plains' volcanic barrier or even from the Atlantic Ocean beaches to the shore of the Pacific Ocean.
Security: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to Ciudad Juarez. There is a high level of drug-related violence and criminal activity in the area.
Severe weather associated with tropical cyclones has affected large parts of the country, in particular the south-west Pacific coast around Acapulco. The airport in Acapulco and the road from Mexico City to Acapulco are now open, but further heavy rains have led to more flooding in recent days. Monitor local media and follow the advice of the local authorities. For full advice see the FCO website.
Surface area : 1967183.0 km2
Population : 107449525 inhabitants
If you like jewellery, you need to know that Mexican silver is of excellent value, and that local silversmiths are very good. Make sure there are three hallmarks: the one of the workshop, the one of the country (a Mexican eagle) and a number corresponding to the alloy (925 = 92.5% pure) Mexico is paradise for handicraft: pottery, glassware, wickerwork, (hammocks, ask for a "matrimonial" for more comfort), leather ware, wooden toys and masks, colonial style ornaments, Indian cloths. Shops are open every day from 9:00 AM (10:00 AM for some) to 8:00 PM, with a break from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Handicraft and souvenir markets are open all day from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
The basis of the food is tortilla (a corn flour pancake). It is prepared to your taste with meats, vegetables, mild and hot sauces, cheese... And it takes on different names depending on its presentation and the way it was cooked: burritos - fresh tortilla, flat on the plate with the garnish on top of it ; tacos, rolled with their stuffing and some chips ; quesadillas, folded in two, with ham and melted cheese. Gorditas are doubled, enchiladas are dipped in sauce, baked or fried then covered in sauce and fresh cream before being served. You'll find also chilaquiles, tlacoyos, tostadas or flautas. Each region has its own gastronomy with mild flavours often blended with spicy notes. Chicken is prepared everywhere, but becomes a delicacy when served with mole poblano (a sauce made with cocoa and many spices). The meat is particularly tasty, especially in cattle farming areas, north-east. Beer is the most popular drink, and more than a dozen different brands are available, lagers, brown or amber ales, always light in taste. Tequila, the national alcoholic drink, is drank either neat or as a "marguarita" with lemon and crushed ice.
The Mexicans are very respectful, punctuating the conversation with constant polite remarks. Respecting these habits will help your relations with all Mexicans, whether it is a waitress, a souvenir shop assistant or a member of the government. Once on friendly terms, affection marks are quite frequent: tap on the back, hand shake. If the person you are due to meet is late, don't take offence: it is a case of "Mexican quarter-hour"...
Unless you go for a holiday of at least three weeks, it is impossible to visit all of Mexico. It is better to concentrate on the colonial towns of central Mexico, Oaxaca state and Chiapas, even if it means coming back later (Zacatecas, Durango et la Barranca del Cobre), to visit the north. Travel in the spring or in the autumn, they are the best seasons to visit the Centre, without being too much affected by the heat.
Don't hesitate to pay a little more for these periods of the year. Likewise, be wary of very low price offers. They are not usually good quality offers!
One of four Grupo Habita properties in Mexico City, the Downtown ...