Travel Tips

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Shops: Shopping hours start at around 10 or 11 am, and continue through to between 8 and 10 pm. Big shops are open 7 days a week; smaller places may close on Sundays, except tourist spots at high season. Christmas & Easter public holidays are observed; on other public holidays you’ll find most things open in cities and bigger towns and tourist spots. Smaller towns will have more limited opening hours, and in hotter, non-tourist regions may close between 2 and 4pm; check locally.

Banks: Banks in Mexico are beginning to get their act together from a commercial view-point. Branches are now open from 9 am to 4 pm in many cities and big towns, and some even open Saturday mornings. HSBC now opens from 8am to 8pm six days a week.

Office Hours: Commercial Office hours tend to run in line with those of the US and the UK: 8am – 6pm.

Churches: Some churches are permanently open; others are locked up if there is no service going on, especially those hosting valuable art or artifacts. If you visit a church, be mindful of those inside who may be taking part in a church service.

Archaeology Parks: Archaeology parks are open to the public from 8am to 5pm, and all except those in the most frequented tourist areas (e.g. Chichen Itza in Yucatan) are closed on Mondays.

Public Holidays in Mexico

Mexico celebrates a number of public holidays throughout the year. You can learn more about the dates, holidays and events surrounding them

Video and Photography in Mexico

If you would like to print your digital photos while in Mexico, you can visit the photo department inside major supermarkets (e.g. Commercial Mexicana, Wal-Mart). There are also independent photography shops—especially common in small towns where there are no major shops—where you can edit/print your digital photos, purchase additional memory chips for your digital camera, buy batteries and accessories and purchase a new camera or video equipment (note that photographic equipment is more expensive in Mexico than it is in the USA).  Film and videotape for non digital cameras are becoming obsolescent, but may still be available in some specialist photographic stores in larger towns and cities.

Video and Photography Etiquette in Mexico

Museums: Some museums and all major archaeology parks will make a small charge if want to take a handheld video recorder into the museum or site with you; some make a charge for cameras, although this is rare. Some will not allow flash photography, especially on ancient stonework and murals as it affects the longevity of the work. You’ll see notices written in Spanish and English that will advise you at each location.

Tripods: The use of tripods at all archaeological sites and some museums requires a permit. If you want to use a tripod you will need to apply for special permission from INAH (the government department that manages archaeological sites and some museums) and there will be a significant fee and plenty of paperwork involved. If you are outside Mexico, contact your local Mexican Consulate for information and details. Sites and museums which don’t allow tripods offer a “package hold” facility for people carrying tripods, where they can be left until you leave the site or museum. Use of tripods elsewhere (public spaces, beaches, towns, etc.) is permitted.

Military and Navy Installations: It’s best not to photograph the army or any military installations to avoid any misunderstandings.

Churches: Taking pictures inside a church when there is a service going on is considered disrespectful, so you should refrain from doing it. Taking pictures inside a church at other times is acceptable in Mexico.

Drinking Alcohol in Mexico/ Legal Drinking Age in Mexico

The legal minimum drinking age in Mexico is 18; three years before the USA’s legal drinking age, which is why a lot of older American teenagers ‘fly south’ to Mexico for a weekend or longer.

Although it has been rare in the past, requests for proof of age or identification when asking for an alcoholic beverage in Mexico are on the rise. However, it is still nowhere near as strict as the USA, where anyone who looks underage is immediately asked for identification.

Drinking on the Street in Mexico- Technically, it is illegal to drink on the street in Mexico, but some people do, especially in tourist areas.

Drinking and Driving in Mexico- Drinking and driving is a serious crime in Mexico. If you drink, take a cab: taxis are very affordable in Mexico, there is absolutely no need to take your car if you are drinking.

Drinking and driving is still more common in Mexico than it is in places like the USA and Canada and so, if you’re driving at night, or if you are a pedestrian near a tourist area with lots of bars, be extra vigilant of cars and traffic, especially in the early hours of the morning, when drunk drivers may be about.
Mexico’s police are stepping up their campaign against drunk-drivers with stiff penalties (including the prospect of prison sentences) for offenders.

Traveling to Mexico with Children

Take your family to Mexico with confidence. Read the comprehensive guide aboutTraveling to Mexico with Children for detailed information about making the most of your family visit to Mexico.

Tipping and Bargaining in Mexico

Tipping is common in the United States: it is almost second-nature and practiced frequently at most service establishments. In many European countries, it is not so common or customary to tip people for services.In Mexico, not only is it customary, it is expected and appreciated in return for good service.

Most people working in Mexico’s tourism and service sectors rely on your tips to supplement their basic pay and they give good service to prove that it makes a significant difference to them.

When you are traveling in Mexico, always keep some loose change in your pocket because you never know when you’re going to need some of it for a tip. Although tips are frequent in Mexico, the amounts are relatively small, and they really can make a different to the person whom you are rewarding.

If you did not get poor service, you should consider tipping in these situations:
Restaurants – 10% – 15% is normal, depending on the class of establishment and level of service you received. At diners and similar places 10% is sufficient; at higher-end restaurants and bistros, 15% is expected for good service.

Hotel Maids – Many people leave a tip for the Maid, about US$5 equivalent per night’s stay, depending on the class of establishment.

Car Valets – If you drive to a bar or restaurant and have your car parked by the establishment’s valet service, you should tip the attendant around US$1 equivalent in pesos when you leave, unless the valet has a pre-advertised rate (probably higher than this) in which case, pay that rate and no more.

Porters – When you arrive at a bus station, airport or hotel there will usually be a group of porters nearby waiting to take your bags. US$1 per bag in pesos equivalent is sufficient; perhaps a little more if the bags are over-sized, particularly heavy or if the attendant offers some additional value, for example, some local advice or directions.

Taxis – If you take a cab from the street, it’s appreciated if you round up the meter charge to nearest 5 or 10 pesos depending on the comfort and speed of your journey; however, taxis hired from taxi ranks at hotels or official taxi ranks should be paid the advertised rate (or the rate you agree in advance) and no more. Also read the guide about Traveling by Taxi in Mexico which includes a link to current taxi prices in Mexico.

Bars and Cantinas – Tables at these are often attended (you don’t need to go to the bar to order food or drink) – and a tip of 10% of the value of your spending that evening is normal.

Spas – For personal services at Resort Spas, 10-15% of the value of the service (e.g. a Massage) is normal.

Bargaining and Barter in Mexico

People who visit Mexico rate shopping at the local markets as one of the most rewarding travel experiences they encounter.

Mexican traders do love a good barter, but beware: if they feel you are trying to devalue their goods too much, they will become upset and may even refuse to trade with you.Bargaining and barter are common activities in Mexico, especially at markets and artifact stores and handicraft workshops.

Department Stores, Malls – Department stores and large (chain) hotels will not barter with you—you’ll have more luck bartering with the check-out assistant of your local supermarket!

Drinking Water

When you’re traveling in Mexico, you must take extra care when drinking water, or fresh beverages that may have tap water added to them. Also check the ice—ask if it was made with tap water especially in more rustic establishments and rural areas. All main hotels and good restaurants use purified water throughout. All commercially produced beverages, including bottled and tinned water, fizzy drinks, wine, beer, spirits, etc will be perfectly safe for you to drink.

Electricity

Mexico’s electricity system is the same as that of the USA: 120 V; 60 Hz. Any electrical equipment you carry with you that operates at the higher (240v) rate will need to be dual-voltage (e.g. hair driers). A lot of electrical equipment (like video cameras, digital cameras, laptops) that operate on 12 volts via a product-specific adaptor will happily cope with dual voltage—check the adaptor and the device instructions to be sure.

You may need a socket adaptor.  Most plugs in Mexico are the same as in the US; two flat prongs.  Some have a third, circular prong for earth, and adapters can be sought for these too if the plug you want to connect to doesn’t have the third (earth) prong socket.

Time Zones in Mexico

Mexico’s has three time zones.

Most of Mexico, including Mexico City and Merida, adheres to Central Time in the USA (same as Dallas, TX) and is always six hours behind GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).

The second time zone starts just north of Puerto Vallarta and affects all areas on the coast north of here and ALL of Baja California Sur. This time zone adheres to Mountain Time (same as Denver, CO); one hour behind Mexico City.

The third domestic time zone begins in the northern reaches of Baja California (the northern area of the peninsula). This area adheres to Pacific Time (same as Los Angeles, CA) and is therefore one hour behind Mountain Time and two hours behind Mexico City. Consult an updated map for the precise location of the time lines.