Mexico is one of the most exciting and vibrant countries in the world. From its palm-treed beaches to steamy jungles, the landscape is stunning. Bustling cities and tiny villages are home to some of the most friendly people you will ever meet. Mayan ruins and world-class museums show the depth of Mexican history and culture. And Mexican food is simply delicious. Travel guides are full of things you should see and do in Mexico. But how do you avoid making silly errors when in a foreign land?
“Montezuma’s Revenge” is not pleasant and definitely not one of the things you want to experience in Mexico. The best way to avoid it is to steer clear of tap water. Stay hydrated in the hot weather by drinking plenty of bottled H2O. It’s available everywhere and is super cheap. Check the bottle is sealed properly and not just filled from a tap. Follow this advice, and there is no reason why Montezuma should take his revenge on you!
The Mexican food you have tried in the US is probably Tex-Mex. Taking its inspiration from Mexican cuisine, dishes are adapted and flavors adjusted to suit the US palette. Real Mexican food is renowned for being spicy. If you are not used it, the heat can be intense. Even if you have a taste for extra-spicy food, it’s best to go easy when in Mexico. Spend some time sampling the local cuisine. Don’t go reaching for the hot pepper sauce until you know you can handle it!
One of the rookie mistakes to make when in Mexico. In places where tequila shots are popular, lime and salt are used to disguise the taste of bad tequila. Shots are usually cheap brands that need something to make them more palatable. Mexico is the home of tequila, and the quality is outstanding. Mexicans tend to drink their tequila “derecho,” served straight-up in a shot glass. Take small sips instead of simply knocking it back. When drinking good tequila, take the time to really appreciate it.
In the big cities like Mexico City and Guadalajara, avoid hailing a cab on the street. Many Mexican taxi companies do not have proper licenses. Their vehicles are not maintained, and drivers go unsupervised. You never know whose car you are getting into. Licensed taxis will have official signage clearly displayed. If in doubt, ask your hotel to arrange reliable transport for you. Better to be safe than sorry.
Whether you are in a large city or small mountain village, don’t miss out on visiting the local market. In Mexico, markets are the social hub of every community. They will give you the opportunity to really get to know a place. Clothing, jewelry, handicraft, and excellent local food are just some of the reasons to visit markets. Always remember to haggle on any purchases you make. If you don’t, the seller will be disappointed!
Haggling and bartering are a way of life in Mexico. The first price you are given in the market is likely to be way too high. Offer a lower price, and they will come back with something less than their initial offer. You will have plenty of practice so will soon get the hang of it. However, don’t go too far. You don’t want to push the seller so far that they make no profit. Before you begin bartering, have the price you are happy to pay fixed firmly in your mind. If you find yourself arguing over a dollar, stop and think. A dollar may not be much to you, but in Mexico, it goes a long way. You could make someone very happy.
Staying in the tourist hotspots, the locals are likely to speak English. However, away from these areas, English will not get you very far. Nothing is worse than seeing a frustrated tourist try to make themselves understood by speaking very slowly and very loudly! Mexicans speak Spanish, so it makes sense to try and learn some of the lingo before you go. Phrasebooks and language apps are readily available, so there really is no excuse. Being able to order food and ask for directions in the local language will be greatly appreciated. Gracias.
Mexico has so many culinary delights you would be doing yourself a disservice by not tasting them. Tamales, tortas, chilaquiles, gorditas, mole, and ceviche are just some of the dishes you need to try. One of the greatest pleasures of traveling is sampling the local cuisine. Don’t be afraid to eat street food or at a market stall. As long as the facilities look clean and the food is served hot, there is nothing to be scared of. If in doubt, get your food at the stall that has the largest crowd around it! Always a guarantee of great quality.
Deep in the heart of the Yucatan jungle are the impressive Mayan temples of Palenque. Entering the jungle with the early morning mist evokes images of Indiana Jones or Lara Croft on an adventure of discovery. Parrots and howler monkeys only add to the mystique. The central temple area is an awe-inspiring site. However, this is only one part of the huge complex. Head off on any of the numerous jungle trails, and you will stumble upon ruins that appear to grow out of the undergrowth. Palenque is a unique experience that you will remember forever.
Mexico is not a country you should visit with a fixed itinerary. Over-planning will lead to you missing out on so many fantastic experiences. Spontaneity is key. Getting out and exploring the streets and can lead to many adventures. Cozy cafes, small plazas and street performances are all waiting to be discovered. You may even get swept up in a local fiesta. Let Mexico set your itinerary and you will experience all the magic it has to offer.