A Beginner’s Guide to Backpacking Mexico: FAQs

For backpackers who have never traveled anywhere but Western Europe before, heading to Mexico can seem like a huge undertaking. There’s a lot to think about when backpacking, from where to go and what to see to whether or not the tap water is safe to drink. Here are some of the frequently asked questions involving Mexico travel to help a newbie get on his way.

Is Mexico a safe place to travel?

Yes, and no. Mexico is a massive country, and just like in the USA, there are places you are not going to want to spend time in because of a high rate of crime. Tijuana would fall into this category of places to avoid, but others, like the southern jewels of San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque, are a must-see for any Mexico traveler. Just do some research in advance, be smart while traveling, and you should be fine.

Can I drink the water in Mexico?

You should not drink the water from the tap in Mexico, unless you are staying in one of those fancy resorts like in the Cancun area that actually offer filtered tap water for their patrons. Otherwise, you can expect some stomach upset, which can terribly impact your trip by making you have to stay close to a toilet.

Do I need to know Spanish to travel Mexico?

Knowing the language of any country you are about to travel to is always a major plus, but in most cases, it is not necessary. If anything, try to learn the basics, such as greetings and general directions; otherwise, those involved in the tourism industry will probably know a word or two of English. If all else fails, bring a picture book or pamphlet that you can point to when in doubt or crisis.

When is the best time to visit Mexico?

There are many factors to consider when choosing the right time to visit Mexico, and that can involve going when tourists numbers are at their lowest, or when the weather is at its best. Mexico is very large and some parts are mountainous, so the climate can vary greatly from region to region. However, the rainy season (May to October) is often quite warm and humid. An influx of tourists will be found from December to April, so some people recommend getting in just after the rainy season in November.

What sites and attractions are popular in Mexico?

Mexico is known for having some spectacular beaches and surf, so resorts in some of the best locations – Cancun and Puerto Vallarta — are popular. Being home to the Mayans thousands of years ago, sites where Mayan cities once thrived, like Palenque, are big on the lists of things to do. Besides these options, you can check out colonial style cities, go on jungle treks, eat local foods and enjoy a nice cerveza or two.

Do I need a visa to travel to Mexico?

For stays of up to 180 days, visas are not required for individuals from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Canada to name a few. However, it is advised that you recheck your visa requirements before traveling as they may change. To enter and exit, you will need to maintain your tourist card that you should receive upon entering the country, either through a border checkpoint, airport, airline, etc.

How can I get around in Mexico?

Long-distance buses run frequently and have all classes of comfort for you to choose from. However, one must note that Mexico is very large and bus rides from one state to another will take all night or more to complete. Chicken buses are going to be the cheapest option, but they will lack comfort. If you are strapped for time, the best option is internal flights. Aeromexico is a good bet for finding cheap flights.

What kind of money do they use in Mexico? And, what should I budget?

Mexico uses the peso as their currency. As for budget, it all depends on your personal travel style. Mexico is definitely not as cheap as other countries in Central America, but you can have plenty of fun at a decent rate if you choose wisely. Hostels in Mexico City, for example, can run you from $8-15 per night, and fruit and vegetables from local markets are extremely cheap.

Written by Brooke Schoenman

2 Comments

  • Amadeo

    March 31, 2013

    Cheap airlines to travel within the country are:
    1. vivaaerobus.com
    2. volaris
    3. interjet

    keep aeromexico as the last option, so it is the most expensive local airline

  • Gap Year Escape

    April 10, 2013

    Thanks for the tips.

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