Travelling to Mexico can be both an exciting and stressful experience whether this is your first time or if go year after year. Mexico is one of the closest countries that Canadians can travel to and is easily accessible whether you want to drive through the States or hop on a flight. Here is how to travel in Mexico like a local so you don’t stand out like a tourist.
If you decide to do an epic road trip and drive into Mexico, know what the laws are to enter that particular port of entry as each one is different along the US border. Years ago a US law passed stating you had to have a passport to enter into Mexico – which is standard in Canada. When you cross the border they ask standard questions as to where you are going and how long you are staying. They are specifically looking to see if you are bringing in more than $10,000 in cash or goods and if so, you must pay a tariff. Before you cross the border make sure to research if there are any special regulations in place such as not allowing certain fruits and vegetables and even meat products into the country so you are not surprised when you get there.
If you are flying, make sure to have your transportation figured out once you land. Does the hotel or resort have a shuttle or do you need to grab a cab? Most stores and restaurants in Mexico accept the US dollar and Mexican peso but typically not any other foreign currency. It is best to exchange a small amount of money at either the airport or the border into pesos.
When out shopping at an open-air street market, it is ok to haggle with the merchant over the price, but is frowned upon in traditional brick and mortar businesses. Remember in Mexico, most families make less than 50$ a week and that it is still a very depressed economy. It is surprising how inexpensive items are and if given a good price right off the bat I often just pay it knowing they need that extra dollar more than I need to haggle over it. Lastly, the people bagging your groceries, watching your car, handling your bags, or waiting your table are only paid in tips, so make sure to tip if using any services.
The dress in Mexico is very casual with suits and ties donned on only for church on Sunday. If staying at a hotel or resort, dress in resort or beach casual. If you head off the resort into town, tone it down a notch and leave your fancy clothes at home and grab a sundress and flip flops. The easiest way to spot a tourist in Mexico is to look for the guys wearing nothing but Hawaiian shirts or girls walking around in bikini tops!
In the Mexican culture, respect goes a long way as does a genuine smile! To fit in like a local in Mexico, know the local customs and traditions. Stores are often closed on Sundays and on all major Mexican holidays including religious observances. Know these dates before traveling or you could get stuck in a town where there is no business happening for days. Mexicans are a friendly, hard-working culture and show a great deal of hospitality often sharing homemade tamales and Mexican beer (if you are lucky).
English is taught in Mexican schools and most people are bilingual, especially those catering to Americans. To fit in like a local, try out your Spanish and see how you do. If you really struggle most of the time they will speak to you in English. Enjoy your time in Mexico like a local and don’t forget to try tacos de pescado – fish tacos fresh out of the ocean!
Kristi Trimmer is a full-time travel and fitness blogger at KristiTrimmer.com. One day she packed up her car and started the #GirlOnTheRun adventure traveling for 202 Days over 38 States and 2 Counties, and she ran in 10 Half Marathons. Kristi is currently on a trek to Alaska running along the way as she blogs about fitness tech, eating soy free, and enjoying good craft beers and yummy wines.