We all need to prepare before we set out for a foreign country.  Fortunately, Mexico is a neighbor and many of the things that we take for granted in the U.S. are easily found in Mexico.  Nonetheless, here are 16 tips for a great vacation in Mexico, the things you need to know before you go.

Mexicans celebrating Independence Day
Mexicans celebrating El Día de la Independencia
  • First of all, what about Covid?  The State Dept. is still requiring all returning international air passengers to obtain a certificate of a negative test within three days of your return trip departure. So far, proof of vaccination is not acceptable and I’m not expecting that to change for a while.  Here is the link to the Dept. website.  https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/covid-19_testing_required_US_Entry.html  The simpler and cheaper antigen test is sufficient.  All the international airports in Mexico are now offering onsite testing.  Since this is a relatively short process, you could conceivably get it done before your flight but savvy travelers are choosing to visit the airport the night before.  My wife and I will be returning from Puerto Vallarta in October so I poked around and found this video.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Smet5PN9L8    It’s informative and is probably representative of the process in most of the country’s airports.  In Vallarta the antigen test was about US$20 in pesos or with a credit card, no U.S. cash dollars accepted. Check with your airline regarding the process at the airport you’ll be returning from for more information.                                     
Phone and Passport
  • Get a valid passport.  You can no longer travel to Mexico using only your driver’s license.  To avoid stress and last-minute rushing, start this process at two or three months before your departure.
  • Contact your cell provider to set up your phone for use in Mexico.  This way you can keep in touch with family and friends and remind them to unplug the iron you left on.  Both ATT and Verizon offer out-of-country temporary adjustments for your plan.
Women getting cash from an ATM
  • You can use your ATM card in Mexico.  It’s safe and reliable.  I’ve used mine in several countries and I’ve never had a security issue or problem of any kind.  You need to inform your bank beforehand of your travel plans (cities and dates), so they don’t cut your card off while you’re on your vacation.  Using your ATM in Mexico is exactly like using it in the U.S.  Simply find an ATM, insert your card, input your PIN, and you’ll get your money in Mexican pesos at a reasonable exchange rate.  There’s a service charge for each international transaction, usually about five dollars each time.  Credit cards also work just fine in Mexico and even the smaller businesses happily accept them.
Church in Cholula, Mexico
Our Lady of the Remedies Church, Cholula, Mexico
  • Wi-Fi is ubiquitous in Mexico now so take along your laptop if you need to keep up with work.
  • Remember to let the post office know that you’ll be out of town and to hold your mail.  You might also want to stop delivery on any newspapers. 
  • There are some great translation apps you can get for your phone.  Google Lens is one where you simply point your camera at a piece of text and it translates it instantly.  It takes a little practice but it works great.  This can be very useful in a restaurant (no point in ordering the fried grasshoppers if that’s not what you really want).
  • Your electrical travel appliances are all going to work perfectly in Mexico; same plugs, same voltage, same cycles.  Take whatever you need on your trip. 
Mexican Pesos
  • You might want to change some pesos in the airport, either before you leave or upon your arrival in Mexico.  It won’t be the best rate so don’t change a lot, but it’s nice to have some small bills to tip the driver to your hotel.
Pharmacy in Mexico
  • Vaccinations – you’re probably already set but check with your health care provider to make sure, especially if you’re visiting tropical areas.  Ask your health care provider what vaccines are recommended for the areas you’ll be visiting, probably none.   : – ) 
  • Pack some non-emergency medical supplies.  Every pharmacy in Mexico stocks everything you could possibly need on a trip but if you have a splitting headache at midnight, it’s better to have something on hand, right?  Pack some aspirin, band-aids, tweezers, safety pins, DEET, sunblock, antacid, inhaler, and any other supplies that you rely on.  Bring enough prescription meds to see you through your trip.  It may be useful to carry a copy of your prescriptions in case you lose your meds and need to get them refilled.
Market vendor offering fresh produce
  • Check on the upcoming weather and pack accordingly.  For example, Mexico City is at about 7400 feet.  At night in the wintertime, it’s downright cold.  Also, keep in mind that in most of tropical Mexico, the rainy season runs from late June through September.  A little travel poncho that fits in your back pocket or purse can come in handy.
Taxco, Mexico
A quiet evening over the Taxco central plaza
  • If you’re planning on bringing back gifts and souvenirs, take along a light duffel bag that you can easily fit into your suitcase.  Fill it up with your purchases for the flight back.
  • I always travel with a slim, hidden passport/cash carrier that goes under my clothes.  You should put your i.d., credit cards, money, and passport in it and keep only a small amount of cash in your pocket or wallet.  Purchase a carrier that offers RFID material to prevent electronic theft of your info (yes, it’s really a thing).  Don’t leave valuable documents in your hotel room.
Cafes in oldtown Campeche
Cafes in oldtown Campeche
  • Normally, the historic center of any town is where you want to book your accommodations.  Unless you really prefer to be out in the countryside, you’ll be spending a lot of time travelling back and forth.  Also, the town center is where all the cool things to see and do are located and there’s generally a lot less traffic in the old historic zones.
  • In Mexico City and several other cities you can use Uber to catch a ride. It’s nice because it’s easy and you know exactly how much the fare is before you get into the car.

Ok, so there are my 16 tips for a great vacation in Mexico.  You’re going to have a great trip of course, and it’s better to go prepared… so now you have a list of things to know before you go.

Agave harvest in Tequila, Mexico
Agave harvest in Tequila, Mexico