Top events in Mexico

March
29

Crowds swell for this powerful re-enactment of the crucifixion when hooded penitents hobble on bloodied knees flagellating themselves.

April
03

Known as 'Feria de la Flor' in Mexican, this colourful fair sees the streets and parks of Cuernavaca filled with wonderfully aromatic flower...

May
15

Each year the town of Tepic celebrates the Fiesta of San Pedro - the patron saint of rain, agriculture and livestock. The event is an important...

Mayan ruins, Chichen Itza, Mexico
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Mayan ruins, Chichen Itza, Mexico

© 123rf.com / Bruno Medley

Mexico Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

1,964,375 sq km (758,449 sq miles).

Population

123.8 million (2014).

Population density

60.5 per sq km.

Capital

Mexico City.

Government

Federal republic. Gained independence from Spain in 1821.

Head of state

President Enrique Peña Nieto since 2012.

Head of government

President Enrique Peña Nieto since 2012.

Electricity

110 volts AC, 60Hz. American two-pin (flat) plugs are usual, but most sockets cannot accept a US-style three-pin plug.

Spicy as salsa roja, intoxicating as a shot of tequila, volatile as the volcanoes of the central sierra, surreal as a Frida Kahlo canvas, monumental as the pyramids of Teotihuacán and warm as its inhabitants, Mexico fills the senses, tweaks the intellect and nourishes the soul.

The phrase 'something for everyone' comes to mind: for nature enthusiasts, whale watching, monarch butterfly migrations, coral reefs off the Yucatan coast and the world's stoutest tree (at Tule, Oaxaca); for hedonists, ecstatic nights spent dancing on the beaches of Cancun; for archaeology buffs, hundreds of painstakingly preserved remnants of ancient civilisations; for gourmands, a tantalisingly varied cuisine, from toothsome tacos to magnificent moles; for art lovers, miles of murals; for shopaholics, weavings, silverwork and fantastic animal figurines; and for beach bums, 10,000 kilometers of coastline, hammocks included.

And with an extensive, inexpensive public transport network, copious accommodations to suit all budget categories, and a friendly, inclusive vibe, travelling around Mexico is easy and highly recommended.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 05 March 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Crime

Crime and violence are serious problems in Mexico. Most victims are Mexicans, many of them believed to be involved in criminal activity, but the security situation also poses risks for foreigners. Many Mexican and foreign businesses choose to hire private security. You should research your destination thoroughly and only travel during daylight hours. Monitor local media and inform trusted contacts of your travel plans.

The Mexican government makes efforts to protect major tourist destinations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta and these areas have not seen the levels of drug-related violence and crime experienced elsewhere. There have been several instances of armed crime both within and outside tourist areas in Acapulco.

When driving, avoid isolated roads and use toll roads (‘cuotas’) whenever possible. Keep car doors locked and windows closed, especially at traffic lights. There have been a number of violent car-jackings and robberies along the Pacific Highway and you should be careful when travelling on this route. Those travelling in large camper vans or sports utility vehicles (SUVs) have been targeted in the past. If you suspect you’re being followed or watched, drive to a police station or other safe place.

Be particularly alert on public transport, at airports and in bus stations. Theft on buses is common so keep an eye on your belongings at all times. Buses have also been hijacked. Where possible, travel on first-class buses using toll roads, which have a lower rate of incidents than second and third class buses travelling on the less secure free (‘libre’) roads. Most first-class bus companies perform security checks when passengers board the bus.

Passengers have been robbed and assaulted by unlicensed taxi drivers including in Mexico City. In Mexico City, use the better regulated ‘sitio’ taxis from authorised cab ranks. At airports, use only authorised pre-paid airport taxi services.

Women travelling on their own should be particularly alert when travelling on public transport. There have been incidents of rape on urban buses (‘micros’) on routes in the south of Mexico City. Most attacks have occurred early in the morning or late at night. Several serious sexual offences have also occurred in tourist areas outside of Mexico City. Take care even in areas close to hotels, and especially after dark.

Don’t leave food and drinks unattended in bars and restaurants. Travellers have been robbed or assaulted after being drugged.

Street crime is a serious problem in major cities and tourist resort areas. Pick-pocketing is common on the Mexico City Metro. Dress down and avoid wearing expensive jewellery or watches. Limit the amount of cash or credit/debit cards you carry with you. Keep a close watch on briefcases and luggage, even in apparently secure places like the lobby of your hotel.

Take care when withdrawing money from ATMs or exchanging money at Bureau de Change. It’s generally safer to use ATMs during daylight hours and inside shops or malls.

Be wary of people presenting themselves as police officers trying to fine or arrest you for no apparent reason. If in doubt, ask for identification and if possible note the officer’s name, badge number, and patrol car number.

Foreign visitors and residents may be targeted by scam artists. Be wary of strangers approaching you or contacting you by phone asking for personal information or financial help. If you or your relatives or friends are asked to transfer money to Mexico make absolutely sure that it is not part of a scam and that you have properly checked with the person receiving the money that they are requesting it.

Kidnapping

Short-term opportunistic kidnapping - called ‘express kidnapping’ - can occur, particularly in urban areas. Victims are forced to withdraw funds from credit or debit cards at a cash point to secure their release. Where victims have friends or relatives living locally, a ransom may be demanded from them. You should comply with requests and not attempt to resist such attacks.

Longer-term kidnapping for financial gain also occurs, and there have been allegations of police officers being involved. Be discreet about discussing your financial or business affairs in places where you may be overheard by others.

Violence

Drug-related violence in Mexico has increased over recent years. The violence is concentrated in specific areas, and some regions are almost completely spared. Make sure you research your destination thoroughly.

Many fatalities are suspected gang members killed in turf wars between the different organisations that compete for control of trafficking routes into the US. Drug-related violence is a particular problem in the northern states of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Sinaloa and Durango, and also in Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán and Nayarit. Armed clashes between security forces and drug groups can occur at any time without warning. You should exercise extreme caution outside of tourist areas in all of these states.

The FCO no longer advise against all but essential travel to Ciudad Juarez. You should, however, take care, travel during daylight, inform relatives or friends of your travel plans and use reputable hotels only.

Outbursts of politically-motivated violence can occur across the country, with a recent increase in the states of Guerrero and Mexico City.

Road travel

You can drive in Mexico using a UK licence or an International Driving Permit. Driving standards are very different from the UK. Roads can be pot-holed. Be prepared to stop unexpectedly and beware of vehicles moving slowly, changing lane without indicating and going through red lights. Many local drivers don’t have any form of car insurance.

To reduce air pollution, Mexico City and some other parts of the country have introduced restrictions on driving. Cars may be forbidden from entering certain areas on particular days, based on their number plates. These regulations are strictly enforced and offenders face heavy fines and temporary confiscation of their vehicle. This only applies to older vehicles and not to newer models which are often used for car hire. Please double check with your car hire company directly.

There is an additional driving restriction in Mexico City, where vehicles without registration plates from the State of Mexico (Estado de Mexico) or the Federal District (DF) are not allowed to enter Mexico City from Monday to Friday between 5:00am and 11:00am.

You may come across unofficial roadblocks, including on main roads, manned by local groups seeking money for an unofficial local toll.

Swimming and water sports

Water sports equipment may not meet UK or international safety standards and you may not be covered by accident insurance. This applies particularly to scuba diving, parasailing and jet-skiing. Make sure the company meets the required safety standards. Check that you’re covered by your travel insurance.

Shark attacks are relatively rare in Mexico, but you should take care, particularly when surfing.

Hotel safety

In some hotels, balcony balustrades may not be as high as you expect and there could be a risk of falling.

Political situation

Mexico has an established multiparty democracy. Political demonstrations are common in Mexico City and can occur across the country. These can be tense and confrontational and could potentially turn violent. Onlookers can be quickly drawn in. You should monitor local media and avoid all demonstrations.

The Mexican constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners. Participation in demonstrations may result in detention and deportation.

The Mexico City Command and Control Centre (Centro de Atención a Emergencias y Proteción Ciudadana de la Ciudad de México) has information and advice on safety in Mexico City. Monitor their twitter page ‘Safe City’ for up-to-date information and advice on accidents, road blocks, demonstrations, etc in Mexico City.

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