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26 Practical Travel Tips for Mexico You Are Guaranteed To Use

26 Practical Travel Tips for Mexico You Are Guaranteed To Use

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After almost 10 different trips in the last few years, I’ve come up with a list of my best Mexico travel tips that most people wouldn’t really think about.

You will find everything from safety, to carrying cash, to bathrooms and everything you need when preparing for a trip to Mexico.

Whether you’re traveling to Mexico for the first time, staying at an all inclusive resort, or going off the beaten path, you will likely encounter at least a few scenarios where these tips will come in handy.

I’ve done all of the above, and there are definitely some things you need to know about traveling to Mexico, so let’s dive in.

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Safety Tips for Traveling to Mexico

The most frequent question I get asked both before I leave and after I return, is: is it safe to travel to Mexico? 

Yes, it’s safe to travel to Mexico, but you should still be smart about it.

A typical street in Valladolid, Mexico

First, if you’re staying at an all inclusive resort, there will be absolutely no reason to feel unsafe. Even when you head out on an excursion or take a taxi into the nearest town, you will be fine.

A good rule of thumb to follow is if you wouldn’t do something at home that could get you in trouble, don’t do it in Mexico, either. 

Our last couple of trips to Mexico were off the beaten path and we stayed in some lesser known places. We felt completely safe.

If you’re staying at a smaller boutique hotel or renting an Airbnb, you will notice that there are usually two points of locking mechanisms at your hotel.

This is in the form of a large and heavy main door or gate to the hotel and then each room having a lock. This is for everyone’s safety and very common. 

As far as what to expect in Mexico, you might hear a lot about drugs, cartels and gangs, but the reality is, this country needs tourism and needs tourists to feel safe.

As long as you’re not engaging in any dangerous or questionable activity, you will be fine.

If you’re still a little anxious about traveling in Mexico, you can always invest in personal items to stay safe and put your mind at ease, like an anti-theft purse.

In fact, most places that tourists frequent in Mexico are safer than many cities in the USA and Canada. 

As long as you’re in the ‘centro’ part of any city or town, totally safe!

Read Next: Off the Beaten Path in Mexico: a Unique Travel Itinerary for Visiting Valladolid and Ek Balam

Travel Planning Tips – Preparing for a Trip to Mexico

What You Need to Go to Mexico

Any visitor entering Mexico needs a valid passport, and it cannot expire within 6 months of your arrival date in Mexico.

You do not need to apply for a visa before you arrive, you are presented with one (for a leisure stay up to 180 days) on arrival at immigration.

When you arrive in Mexico, immigration will provide you with a visa slip that you keep with your passport. Do not lose this! You will need to give it back upon your departure from the country.

And many hotels will want to take a photocopy of your passport when you check-in, for security reasons, so you want to leave your slip close by your passport but not in it.

One of my top travel tips for Mexico is to get yourself a high quality passport holder with a zipper and made of a material that will protect against humidity so that you don’t damage your passport or the visitor slip. 

I use this zippered passport holder that doubles as a wallet, and has a handy little wrist strap so you can be hands free when you’re going through the airport and need to dig things out of your bag.

And it’s the perfect size to hold immigration cards that you fill out on the plane before arrival. 

Or this travel wallet is great for keeping all the family passports together in one place. 

After a couple trips to Mexico and its humidity, some of the pages in my passport started curling, which I didn’t really notice.

That is, until I went to renew it at the passport office and they considered it borderline damaged! Thankfully I was able to renew it, and now I only keep my passport tucked in its pouch away from the humidity!

Travel Insurance

Speaking of safety, it’s a good idea to look into and think about getting travel insurance for Mexico.

I use a company called World Nomads which I love because they offer different plans and most cover medical and health events, theft, airline problems, etc.

It’s very reasonably priced and you can get an instant quote for free and there’s no obligation to buy.

What’s more, is that you can even purchase it when you’re already on your trip in case you’re having second thoughts after you have arrived.

Medicine and Vaccination Information

I am not a medical doctor, nor should you take any medical advice from me, but I will share my experiences as far as medicines and vaccinations go when planning a trip to Mexico.

First, in my opinion, I don’t think you need to take any medicine before traveling to Mexico.

I would, however, suggest starting some pro-biotics about a week before you leave, to give your gut health a little added boost and to give a head start to fighting off anything that might be potentially uncomfortable. 

You don’t need any particular vaccinations for Mexico other than your routine vaccinations you would be up to date on. Many travelers choose to take Dukoral before they leave for Mexico, but I have not.

Essential Mexico Checklist: 17 Things You Should Pack for an All Inclusive Vacation

Hotel Tips for Mexico

Before leaving on vacation, most of us book our hotel accommodations online in advance.

My favorite platform that I use is; one of the reasons I like it is because many of the hotels offer free cancellation up until a few days before check-in.

Yes, even the nice beachfront hotels prefer if you pay cash! Hotel La Palapa in Holbox

But what I’ve learned after traveling throughout Mexico is that it’s best to pay for your hotel online in advance (that is, as long as you’re not planning to cancel your reservation), instead of paying the hotel once you arrive. 

Here is my reason behind that. Our hotel costs are usually one of the biggest expenses, and I don’t like carrying around that much cash at once.

Oh, no problem, I’ll just pull out my credit card right? Wrong.

While it’s gotten better in recent years, many hotels in Mexico still prefer you to pay cash. I have run into situations at a hotel upon check-in where the credit card machine ‘conveniently’ isn’t working.

Alternatively, if they are willing to let you pay by credit card, I’ve had many places tack on an extra 5% of the price to cover the fees they get charged. 

Hotel Peix in Sayulita

Now, I always pay for my hotel stays online so that it’s taken care of, I don’t get overcharged or have to run to an ATM and take out hundreds of dollars in pesos.

Booking and paying for your hotel online in advance is just one less thing you will have to worry about on your trip to Mexico. 

You Might Also Like: A Complete Travel Guide to Sayulita, Mexico

Cash, Currency and Payment Travel Tips for Mexico

Should You Use Pesos or Dollars When in Mexico?

Many sectors in Mexico run on the informal economy, and especially the tourism and hospitality industry. Cash is king here.

The most important thing you need to know about traveling to Mexico is to pay in the local currency which is Mexican Pesos (MXN). Yes, even if you’re staying at an all inclusive resort, you should tip in Pesos.

When staff receive American dollars, they need to go to the bank to exchange their tips into Pesos (it’s just more of a hassle for them). 

Watch my video explaining all these tips about traveling in Mexico and other Mexico travel advice!

How Much to Tip in Mexico

Tipping in Mexico is pretty straightforward, 10 to 15 percent of your bill is standard. At a restaurant we calculate the tip percentage we would like to pay and then round it up to the nearest bill to make it quick and easy.

And if you’re at an all inclusive resort, it’s typical to tip the bartenders or pool servers about 10 pesos per drink.

Or, hand them a 100 peso bill and that will keep the drinks flowing for a while! Of course, you are always welcome to tip more than that.

Small Change

When paying with cash in Mexico, you will notice that no one ever seems to have change, especially for big bills.

You will almost always be asked if you have exact change if you’re paying in a larger bill.

When you go to the ATM, it will dispense cash in large bills (normally 200s or 500s), so this is a pain!

So, another useful Mexico travel tip is that when you have the chance, always pay with the highest bills possible, so that you can get change back in smaller bills to make it easier to pay for tips or low cost items. 

For example, at restaurants, even if I have enough to pay the check in small bills, I always try to pay with a big bill, get the change back and then tip (if I’m running low on small bills).

Or, if you have to stop at a pharmacy to buy sunscreen, bandaids or medication, they usually have change, so pay with big bills.

OXXO (the convenience stores located on every corner) are also a good place to break big bills.

When and Where to Get Pesos

The best place to get pesos for your Mexico trip is at a bank ATM (not a private one in front of a store). As long as it’s a bank ATM, it should be safe and have the lowest fees.

The airports will always be the most expensive. I’ve never had a problem taking out money from an ATM in Mexico.

Want More Mexico Reading? Check out: Bucerías – a Travel Guide to Visiting This Charming Town Near Puerto Vallarta

How Many Pesos Will you Need for Your Mexico Trip?

This answer obviously depends where you are staying and how much of a budget you’re on. If you’re staying at an all inclusive resort, you will only need about 100 pesos per day per person for tips (I’d say this is minimum). 

If you’re staying at a hotel in Puerto Vallarta, for example, and eating out for each meal and throwing in a couple happy hours, you might want to budget 500 pesos per person.

Of course, you can definitely do it cheaper than this, or spend as much as you want.

Tips for Using the Bathroom in Mexico

Keep Your Coins

One of the first things that may surprise you about traveling to Mexico is that you usually have to pay for public washrooms.

Depending where you are, it’s only about 5 or 10 pesos, and there is usually an attendant at the entrance who will take your money and then give you toilet paper.

Some places like bus terminals have a coin and gate operated system. Either way, it’s important to know that this is common practice in Mexico. All the more important to keep your small change and coins!

So, always remember to take advantage of the washrooms at the restaurants when you’re a paying customer. 

Here’s a mexico travel tip just in case: if you’re out and about and need to use a washroom but don’t want to pay, the larger grocery stores like Chedraui or MegaSuper are free to use. 

Don’t Flush the Toilet Paper

Another thing you need to know about using the bathrooms in Mexico, is that in pretty much every place except all inclusive resorts, you are not supposed to flush toilet paper down the toilet.

It goes in the waste bin beside the toilet. Yes, even when you go number 2!

The sewage and plumbing systems in Mexico just can’t handle it. It’s weird at first, but you get used to it. 

Know Which Bathroom is the Right One

In Mexico, the bathroom door that starts with an ‘M’ is for the ladies! You will likely encounter an ‘M’ or ‘Mujeres’ which means women. ‘Hombres’ means men.

You might also see ‘Damas’ which means ladies and ‘Caballeros’ means gentlemen.

No one told me to expect this in Mexico years ago on my first trip, so this is an important thing to know before you go! 

Expect a Little Discomfort

Most tourists (especially if it’s your first time traveling to Mexico) experience a bout of what we call ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’. It’s weird right, who is Montezuma and why does he want revenge?

Apparently it’s an ode to the rulers of countries who were colonized by larger more powerful empires (the Spanish) and this was their little piece of retribution.

Anyways, yes, we’re talking about diarrhea here. This usually occurs after your first day or two of getting used to the different food bacteria that’s found in Mexico.

Your gut is used to the food bacteria in North America but not in Mexico. This comes in the form of Diarrhea, and yes it sucks, but usually passes within a day.

If it really bothers you, or you’re worried about it, you can visit any pharmacy and get an over the counter pill to treat this called Treda. I am not a doctor, so do not take this as medical advice. However, I have used this and it works. 

Transportation and Getting Around in Mexico

Coach Busses for Long Distances

Getting around both to and from and within cities in Mexico is safe, efficient and low cost. If you’re traveling between cities, the ADO bus system is great.

There are tons of buses scheduled at all times, they’re comfortable and relatively low cost. For example, we took a 4 hour bus ride from Mérida to Cancun and it was about 35 dollars per person. 

Local Busses 

Within cities and towns, you can take local buses. You pay the driver on board (usually between 10-20 pesos per trip) and you’re good to go.

I’ve used the local bus system to travel within and around the Puerto Vallarta area and have never had any problems.

Each bus has the destination and route written in large white letters (or a sign) on the windshield. So it’s very easy to tell which bus you should be getting on when you see them pull up.

Try the Collectivos for Regional Travel

And, if you’re located just outside of the city, you can take a ‘collectivo’. This is a shared transportation service, many locals use them on their commutes.

They are basically 15 passenger vans and the drivers will pick people up along the way until it’s full. We have done this from all inclusive resorts too!

For instance, when staying at the Bahia Principe Resort in the Mayan Riviera, we just walked to the highway and took a collectivo into Play del Carmen. You pay the driver when you get off (about 20-30 pesos depending how far you’re going).

Taxis – Agree to Your Fare Before Your Ride Starts

There are always taxis available to get you around, and there are Ubers in many cities now, too. If you do hire a taxi, agree to the price of the fare before you get in and start your trip.

Occasionally the taxis will be metered (depending on what city you’re in).

But if they are not metered, ask the taxi driver how much it will be to get to your destination. Unless you know exactly what the price should be, you can haggle a bit and ask for a cheaper price.

They will likely counter with another price, and then when you come to an agreement you can go on your way. 

In larger cities, like Puerto Vallarta, many of the fares are set and posted in the taxis and hotels. Expect to pay 50-100 pesos for trips within PV.

Read Next: Huatulco – One of Mexico’s Hidden Gems

WiFi Availability

Generally speaking, there is decent enough WiFi available wherever you will be traveling within Mexico.

Larger cities now how free public WiFi in some of the central squares, and if you’re staying at an all inclusive resort or a new luxury hotel, you shouldn’t have a problem with free and fast internet.

But, if you need to ensure that you always have access to WiFi, it can definitely be spotty and unreliable at times, especially if you’re going a little more off the beaten path.

One great solution is to get yourself a portable WiFi hotspot that works anywhere.

I bring my Skyoam everywhere, because you can choose your own plan, only pay for what you use and can connect several devices. This always comes in handy when I land at the airport and need to find transportation, most airport WiFi isn’t always reliable in Mexico.

Food and Drink Tips


First, one of the most important tips for traveling to Mexico is to not drink the tap water. To avoid getting sick, stick to bottled water only.

Some people even use bottled water to brush their teeth. Sometimes I do, sometimes I just swish with tap water, but then I will swish right away with bottled water.

Either way, it’s nothing to be scared of, but just make sure you’re always drinking bottled water.

Restaurants will serve you bottled water and the ice at bars and restaurants is always made from bottled water too. Hot drinks like coffee and tea are fine to drink. 

How Much Will a Beer Cost You?

When you’re at a restaurant, bar or on the beach, if you can find beer for 30 pesos or less, that’s a good price! These days you might be paying closer to 40 or 50 pesos for one beer, so when you find a place with 30 peso beers, grab a seat! 

If you’re on the go or going to be renting your own condo, head to an OXXO (convenience stores on every corner) for cheap beer and bottled water. 

Try Some New Food

Be adventurous! Street taco stands are everywhere, they are totally fine to eat at, have fun and do as the locals do.

There’s always plenty of other street food at the outdoor markets or in the evenings, and these are also safe to eat from.

If you are slightly worried, my best tip would be to choose one that’s busy/has a lineup, that way you know the food is fresh! 

In addition to tacos, tortillas are served with almost every meal in Mexico! Usually corn tortillas are the most popular choice and will be the default tortilla that is served.

If you prefer flour tortillas, ask for tortilla de harina.

A typical lunch of tacos

Eating Fruit in Mexico

One of my favorite things about travelling to Mexico is the abundance of fresh fruit. You will be fine eating fruit, especially thick skinned fruits like Pineapple and Mango.

One of my best tips for Mexico though, is do not mix eating papaya with orange.

When eaten together in the same meal it’s a natural laxative. This is especially important if you’re staying at an all inclusive resort, the breakfast buffets always have an appetizing spread of fresh fruit, so choose wisely! 

Related Reading: Travel Planning Guide to the Best Puerto Vallarta Beaches


Don’t Rush

Things are much more laid back in Mexico. We North Americans are used to things being scheduled and running on time; this is not always the case in Mexico.

Whether you’re waiting for the check at a restaurant or standing by for that taxi you ordered, one of my biggest travel tips for Mexico is to learn to be on Mexico time! It’s hot, no one else is in a rush and you’re on vacation, so take the time to enjoy and not stress out. 

Beach Vendors and Shopkeepers

If you’re in the Malecon area of Puerto Vallarta, or roaming around Playa del Carmen, you can expect to be bombarded by shop owners who can be a little pushy when they try to get you into their shops to buy souvenirs.

Photo courtesy of Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board

This is the same on the beaches – many beach vendors will walk the beach with a collection of sunglasses or ponchos and try to sell you anything they can. If you’re not interested, just smile and say ‘no gracias.’ 

Bartering and Haggling

If you do want to buy souvenirs or do some shopping at the local markets, I highly recommend it. We’ve come home with things like a great blanket, home decor and kitchenware.

Shopping at the markets for little souvenirs is always fun. And part of the experience is bartering! If you see something you like, always ask how much it is.

The shopkeeper will tell you you a price. Start by offering anywhere from 30-50% lower than what they quoted you. They will usually pretend that it’s way too low, and this is where the fun starts! Have some fun going back and forth.

You can always walk away if you don’t agree on the price. And remember, they won’t sell you an item if they won’t make money on it. Also, there are many tourists who are uncomfortable bartering, so they end up paying full price.

Therefore, you don’t have to feel too bad about getting something for a lower price than you were originally quoted.

Have some fun and practice, it gets easier the more you do it! We have even had success getting to know great restaurants or hidden gem bars in the area that serve cheap drinks from having a good (and respectful) time bartering at the shops. 

And speaking of which, Mexicans love to get together, stay up late and have parties or informal gatherings.

I swear, everytime I go to Mexico, there’s always some music somewhere in the distance on any given night! And even more so during the holidays.

Photo courtesy of Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board

If you typically head to bed early, pack some earplugs just in case. 

Mexicans are so friendly, they love socializing, having fun and making jokes, so join in on their happy go lucky spirits and you will have a great time in Mexico!

Try Somewhere Off the Resorts!

If you really want to experience Mexico, I highly recommend trying a vacation where you don’t stay at an all-inclusive resort.

When you head inland, there are so many under the radar destinations in Mexico worth your vacation time.

Stay at a boutique hotel in the romantic zone (old town area) of Puerto Vallarta for quaint coffee shops and incredible views, or head to the gorgeous colonial city of Mérida for stunning architecture.

One of the many old mansions in Mérida

You will discover incredible restaurants, history and hidden gems by going a little off the beaten path.

Discover More Hidden Gems: 12 Things to Do in Holbox for the Ultimate Mexican Island Vacation

One Last Tip…

If you still love the physical feeling of a guidebook, I love using the Lonely Planet books as my travel bibles.

While I always do a lot of research before any trip, I love bringing these books on the plane with me to read up while I’m on my way to sun, sand and the sea!

They’re also great to have on hand when you’re sipping your morning coffee overlooking the ocean making your plan for the day. Plus, this Mexico guidebook is full of maps and interesting information about the history of the places you’ll visit.

I hope that you found this post to be a useful checklist for traveling to Mexico. Just remember that while Mexico is safe to visit, it’s still a much different country than the USA, Canada and western European countries. As long as you keep these travel tips in mind and know what to expect in Mexico, you will have an amazing time!

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Merrie Rodriguez

Sunday 26th of January 2020

Oh! I LOVE Lonely Planet travel books too!! They are so helpful when planning trips


Sunday 26th of January 2020

Right! I love my phone for looking things up, but I just can't shake the feeling of having a physical travel guide in my hands, ya know!


Sunday 26th of January 2020

Thank you so much for all the value, I went to Mexico but those tips changed a lot!


Sunday 26th of January 2020

thanks! glad it was helpful - it's the small things that make a difference :)


Sunday 26th of January 2020

Very informative! Absolutely useful and honest! Your knowledge and experience (about Mexico) comes through! Mexico is on my bucket list!


Sunday 26th of January 2020

Thank you! No matter where you go on your first trip to Mexico, you'll love it! Hope you make it soon :)

Nicole | Mapless Adventures

Saturday 25th of January 2020

I truly love Mexico. It has such a vast amount of different environments and off the beaten track places. Thank you for sharing. Mexico is a beautiful country! Loved your photos!


Sunday 26th of January 2020

Thanks for reading! I agree, there is so much to see and do in Mexico, something for everyone.

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