And without further ado, let’s continue with Part II…
Don’t just assume that everyone speaks English wherever you go. Especially in smaller towns and villages, it might be challenging to find someone who does. The official language is Spanish, so brush up on those language skills. Most guidebooks and quite a few internet sites are dedicated to useful phrases for travelers, including their pronunciation.
When doing business basic phrases like “Gracias“, “Por favor“, “Mucho gusto“, “Salud!” are considered polite even if with that you’ve exhausted all your Spanish. Also, familiarize yourself with etiquette; like shaking hands is customary when you get introduced, hugs and a kiss on the cheek is also common between friends.
Go with the flow
Getting any business done in Mexico sometimes borderlines on annoyingly painful. The pace of life, especially on the Riviera is slower than what most foreigners are used to, and in many situations a sort of mañana-attitude is being applied (mañana is tomorrow is Spanish), meaning things needed to be done on a deadline will be left to the last minute, you will be kept waiting even if you arrived at the business at a previously agreed time, etc. Just accept that the customs are different, lower your expectations, plan ahead, and above all, don’t act angry or impatient when subjected to this.
Houston, we have a problem!
The internet service is somewhat unreliable or non-existent in certain parts of the country. Don’t panic because you lost your 3G connection or roaming ate all your data. I’m sure that uploading the latest selfie to Facebook can wait until you get your connection back. For longer trips, always have a map in your bag; even if your language skills fail you, you can make yourself understood.
I’m a little alien…
I have mentioned this in a previous post, it is one of the most important advice I can give you (it applies to any country, not only Mexico). Respect the culture, the customs and the people of the country. Don’t flaunt your wealth, wear extravagant clothing and expensive jewellery, or make the locals feel like they’re servants in their own country. You are a guest, and you should always behave accordingly. It’s also for your own benefit since most locals are much more sociable and helpful if you show respect.
And last but not least some practical advice…
The currency is Mexican peso (MXN), but the symbol commercially used for peso is the same as the dollar sign ($). You can exchange your money in advance if you want; but since you don’t need to have local currency with you upon entering the country, you can also queue at the airport exchange (they accept dollars, English pounds, and Euros, and the exchange rate is quite reasonable). If you need extra money, ATMs are widely available, and they take any credit or debit card; for your safety though use ATMs in gas stations, shops, and banks, and be aware that every transaction involves an extra charge, a handling fee you’ll be notified of when making the transaction. Also keep in mind that some ATMs will refuse to communicate with you in English. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, abort the transaction and find a more reasonable cash machine. I also wouldn’t recommend carrying around too much money with you. Take only as much as you calculate for the day, keep the rest in a safe place.
Also keep in mind that (however strange it sounds) you will need to pay a departure tax upon leaving the country. As of 2014, the charge is approximately 900 pesos (~$65, £45 or €48; although authorities reserve the right to change the amount without warning). The tax is only payable locally and in cash before you approach the check-in desk at the airport. Any other currency (apart from the ones mentioned above), credit or debit cards are not accepted.
I know where you’re going with this…
You might need to apply for a visa before traveling to Mexico. Information about visa requirements is available online, if you’re in doubt, ring your country’s embassy. The requirements depend on what country’s passport you hold, and not where you travel from.
Entering Mexico you will also need a travel card stating the purpose of your visit and where you staying (name and address of your hotel). If you travel as a tourist, your travel card is valid for 180 days (6 months). You don’t need to apply for one before your trip, they are distributed on the plane by the flight crew. When you reach the immigration checkpoint the clerk will rip the card in two, giving you back the control slip. Hold onto that half, you will need to hand it back upon your leaving the country. If lost, it can be replaced, but you will be fined.
It’s an emergency!
Have important phone numbers written down, like the number of the local emergency services (ambulance, police), name and number of your emergency contact (local and/or abroad), your bank’s phone number (in case you need to block your credit cards), your insurance company’s phone number (for medical or other reasons) and the details of your insurance, and the contact number for your country’s embassy. Also, have your passport scanned and email a copy to yourself. Have a paper copy with you at all times, but remember to keep that and the essential phone numbers on your person (just in case your bag gets stolen).
The time of my life
Although I haven’t experienced this personally, but a few locals and various internet sites brought it to my attention: tourists are quite often approached with timeshare opportunities, promising a free day trip and/or a free meal in exchange for sitting through a presentation. Some of these are legitimate businesses that live up to your expectations, but some are elaborate scams to rid you of your money. If you’re interested in timeshare, research the companies that offer that opportunity before committing to anything; if it’s only the free meal and day trip that motivates you, you might wanna let it go this time…
And this concludes our lesson for the day. You deserve a gold star if you’ve read through it.
I hope you’re all set now. In case you’ve missed Part I of the do’s and don’ts, click here.
Is there anything missing from the list? Do you have any questions?
You can ask me here directly or leave a comment in the comment section below.