The Ultimate Mexico Travel Guide

Mexico is one of the most popular countries for travelers, whether you’re strapping a backpack to your back or heading out with a luxury tour group. And it’s easy to see why — Mexico offers everything from beautiful beaches and vibrant cities to ancient ruins and diverse cultures.

Regardless of whether you only have a few days in Mexico or several weeks, this Mexico travel guide will help you make the most of your trip as it covers all the most popular places, a few hidden gems, and insider tips to enhance your travel experience.

So, pack your bags and get ready for an adventure in Mexico!


Basic Info

  • Population – 125,959,205
  • Capital – Mexico City
  • Currency – Peso (1 usd = 20 pesos)
  • Language – Spanish
  • Plugs – Type A or B, 120V / 60Hz
  • Major Mountain Ranges – Sierra Madre
  • Major Rivers – Rio Grande, Yaqui
  • Legal Drinking Age – 18 Years

Airports

Before heading off on your journey, you should know a few things about Mexico. The country is located in the southern part of North America and shares borders with the United States to the north and Belize and Guatemala to the south. And the country is huge! 

Mexico has several international airports that serve as popular entry points for travelers. Some of the busiest airports include:

  • (CUN) Cancún International Airport – Cancún
  • (MEX) Licenciado Benito Juarez International Airport – Mexico City
  • (SJD) Los Cabos International Airport – San José del Cabo
  • (PVR) Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport – Puerto Vallarta
  • (GDL) Don Miguel Hidalgo Y Costilla International Airport – Guadalajara
  • (MTY) General Mariano Escobedo International Airport – Monterrey

Depending on your destination and travel plans, you may want to consider these airports as your starting point.

Read: 13 Best Airlines To Fly To Mexico [Pros and Cons]

Read: Guadalajara, Mexico – Airport Guide: Everything You Should Know


Top Destinations in Mexico

Mexico has something to offer for every type of traveler, and its best locations are spread out throughout the country.

  • Cancun — Cancun is arguably the most popular place to visit in Mexico. With 44 airlines operating flights from around the world, it’s easy to hop off the plane and be on the beach within hours. The beautiful beaches, clear blue water, and lively nightlife make Cancun an unbeatable destination.
  • Mexico City — As the country’s capital, Mexico City is full of history, culture, and delicious food. Home to some of the best museums, art galleries, and restaurants in Mexico, it’s a must-visit for any traveler looking to immerse themselves in the country’s vibrant culture.
  • Tulum — Located on the Caribbean coast, Tulum is known for its stunning beaches and ancient Mayan ruins. You’ll find a wide variety of luxurious resorts, eco-friendly hotels, and unique experiences in this coastal town.
  • Puerto Vallarta — Located between the Sierra Madre Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Puerto Vallarta is a picturesque seaside town with cobblestone streets, charming architecture, and beautiful beaches. Ideal for those wanting relaxation and adventure.
  • Oaxaca City — If food and art are your passions, then Oaxaca City should be at the top of your list. Known for its incredible gastronomic scene and vibrant street art, this city is a must-visit for any foodie or art lover.
  • Puerto Escondido — This surfer’s paradise on the Pacific coast is becoming a must-visit destination in Mexico. Its laid-back atmosphere, beautiful beaches, and world-class surfing make it an incredible alternative to the more popular Caribbean coast.
  • Cabo San Lucas — Situated at the southern tip of Baja California Sur, Cabo San Lucas has gorgeous beaches, upscale resorts, and lively nightlife. It’s the perfect destination for a luxurious getaway.
  • Sayulita —Everyone’s favorite small beach town, Sayulita, is a charming village on the Pacific coast that offers a more laid-back and authentic experience. Its colorful streets, delicious street food, and beautiful beaches are perfect for embracing the slow local life.
  • Bacalar —The seven-colored lagoon is one of Mexico’s hidden gems and a must-visit for nature lovers. Located in the state of Quintana Roo, this breathtaking destination offers crystal clear waters, lush greenery, and endless opportunities for swimming, kayaking, and relaxation.

Regions of Mexico Guides:

Aguascalientes

Baja California

Baja California Sur

Campeche

Chiapas

Chihuahua

Coahuila

Colima

Durango

Guanajuato

Guerrero

Hidalgo

Jalisco

México

Mexico City

Michoacán

Morelos

Nayarit

Nuevo León

Oaxaca

Puebla

Querétaro

Quintana Roo

San Luis Potosí

Sinaloa

Sonora

Tabasco

Tlaxcala

Veracruz

Yucatán

Zacatecas


puerto vallarta mexico
Image Credit: Savoteur

Things to Do in Mexico

Where to even begin? I mean, there are so many amazing things to do in Mexico that I think it would take a lifetime to experience everything this country offers. But I’ve included some of my favorite must-do activities in Mexico.

  • Swim in Cenotes — Cenotes are natural swimming holes throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. They are formed by underground rivers and offer a refreshing and unique swimming experience surrounded by stunning rock formations.
  • Explore ancient ruins — Mexico is home to some of the world’s most well-preserved Mayan ruins, including Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Coba. These ancient sites offer a fascinating look into the history and culture of the Mayan civilization.
  • Try local cuisine — Mexican food is one of the most mouthwatering and diverse cuisines in the world. From street tacos to traditional mole dishes, there’s something for every palate. If you’re a big foodie, make sure to take a food tour to truly experience the flavors of Mexico.
  • Relax on the beaches — Mexico is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. From secluded coves to huge resort towns, there’s a beach for every type of traveler. Grab a cold drink and soak up the sun while enjoying gorgeous views.
  • Swim with whale sharks — Only two places in the world offer the chance to swim with these gentle giants, and Mexico is one of them. From June to September, you can take a boat tour and snorkel with these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
  • Attend a traditional festival — Mexico is known for its colorful and lively festivals. My favorites are Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in November and Carnaval in February.

Mexico Travel Guides:


two boys walking through puerto vallarta resort
Image Credit: Savoteur

Where to Stay in Mexico

Knowing where to stay can be tricky. Do you go for the traditional all-inclusive resort, or are you feeling a bit more adventurous and want to stay in a local Airbnb?

In my personal opinion, I will always opt for more traditional stays, like boutique hotels; I think this gives you a deeper experience with the culture and people. But in some locations, it’s worth it to splurge.

Tulum has some of the most beautiful and unique boutique hotels, perfect for a romantic and luxurious getaway. Cancun and Cozumel are great choices for all-inclusive resorts, offering endless activities and amenities. This will also give you the best access to clean beaches with all the luxury vibes you need from your holiday.

For a more local experience, consider staying in a traditional Mexican hacienda or charming bed and breakfast in smaller towns like Sayulita or Oaxaca, where you’ll get a taste of authentic Mexican hospitality and lifestyle.


Must-Have Food and Drinks in Mexico

This is actually my favorite topic to talk about when it comes to Mexico. Pretty much no matter where you go, the food will be more than you’ve ever dreamed of, and these are my must-tries in Mexico.

Al Pastor Taco – It doesn’t get better than this juicy, flavorful pork taco, typically topped with pineapple and served on a corn tortilla. Trust me, you’ll be craving these long after you leave Mexico. You’ll find them on just about every street corner.

Chilaquiles – This breakfast dish consists of fried tortillas smothered in green or red salsa and topped with eggs, cheese, and sometimes chicken or beef. There is seriously no better breakfast food.

Mole – This dark, rich sauce has over 20 different ingredients, including chili peppers, chocolate, and spices. It’s typically served over chicken or pork and is a must-try for foodies. Each region has its own version of the mole, so be sure to try it in different places for a unique experience.

Aguachile – This refreshing seafood dish originates from the Sinaloa region and is made with shrimp, cucumber, lime juice, and chili peppers. It’s like a spicy ceviche and is perfect for a hot day by the beach.

Guacamole and Margaritas – No trip to Mexico is complete without indulging in fresh guacamole and a classic margarita.

Michelada – This refreshing drink is made with beer, lime juice, tomato juice, and hot sauce and is often served with a salt-rimmed glass. It’s the perfect way to cool down on a hot day while also getting a little pinch of spice.

Mezcal – Move over tequila. There’s a new drink in town. Mezcal is made from the agave plant, just like tequila, but has a more smoky and complex flavor. It’s often served with a slice of orange and chili salt on the rim for an added kick. (you sip it, not shoot it)

Agua Fresca – Nothing is more refreshing than a cold, fruity Agua Fresca on a hot Mexican day. This non-alcoholic drink is made with fresh fruit, water, and sugar and comes in a variety of flavors, such as watermelon, mango, and pineapple.

Mexican Food & Drinks Posts:


Naucalpan, State of Mexico, Mexico, iconic monument called towers of satelite city, entrance to important living district north of Mexico City, and beside main road
Image Credit: Savoteur

How to Get Around Mexico

Navigating transportation in a foreign place can be a little overwhelming. But don’t worry; Mexico has plenty of options for getting around that are both efficient and affordable.

One popular option is the extensive ADO bus network that connects major cities and towns throughout the country. These buses are clean and comfortable and offer different classes to fit your budget. This is my favorite way to travel in Mexico.

If you’re headed straight from the airport to your hotel, consider booking a shuttle in advance. This will save you the hassle of trying to find a taxi and prevent any potential scams.

Another popular option is renting a car, especially if you plan on exploring more remote areas or want the flexibility to stop at different towns.

For shorter distances, taxis are an easy option and usually cheap. Just remember to always negotiate the price before getting in.

And if you want to really feel like a local, you can hail down a collectivo. These local vans or trucks run along specific routes and are a cheap way to get around.

Navigating Mexico posts:

Travel Advice for Traveling Mexico

Best Time to Go

There is no really bad time to visit Mexico, but there are definitely better times than others. The high season on the coast runs from December to April when the weather is warm and dry, making it perfect for outdoor activities.

However, this is also peak tourist season, so prices will be higher, and popular destinations can get crowded. If you want to experience fewer crowds and possibly save some money, consider visiting during the shoulder season from May to June or September to October. Remember that hurricane season runs from June to November, but Mexico hasn’t had a major hurricane hit in several years.

For the inland cities and regions, the best time to visit is from November to February when the weather is cooler and more comfortable for exploring. During the summer, temperatures can reach over 100°F (38°C), and the humidity is brutal.

How to Stay Safe

Mexico has gotten a bad rap for being a dangerous destination, but despite its reputation, it is generally safe for tourists.

However, it’s always important to take precautions when traveling anywhere. Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Cancun are especially popular tourist destinations where the crime rate is a bit higher, but staying in well-populated areas and avoiding walking alone at night can help minimize any potential risk.

Before you book anything, check Government travel advisories and always purchase travel insurance

What to Pack

Packing for a trip to Mexico can be overwhelming, especially when you’re unsure what to expect. Here are some essentials that are always in my bag.

  • Sunscreen: The sun in Mexico is strong, so make sure to bring sunscreen with a high SPF.
  • Bug spray: Insect repellent may come in handy depending on where you’re traveling.
  • Comfortable clothing: Lightweight, breathable clothing will keep you cool when the sun is blazing.
  • Comfortable shoes: With all the exploring you’ll be doing, comfortable walking shoes are a must.
  • Cash/ATM card: While most places will accept credit cards, it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand.

Travel Tips

After spending years traveling throughout Mexico, I’ve learned a few tips that can make your trip even more enjoyable.

First things first, try to learn some basic Spanish phrases before your trip. It can go a long way in communication, and locals will appreciate the effort.

  • Hello: Hola
  • Please: Por favor
  • Thank you: Gracias
  • Excuse me: Disculpe
  • Where is the bathroom?: ¿Dónde está el baño?

The standard tip amount is 10%.

While most places will accept US dollars, the exchange rate is horrendous. You’ll get a much better deal if you pay with the local currency, which is Pesos. ATMs are readily available throughout the country, so it’s easy to withdraw cash in Pesos.

Don’t drink the water. This is super important! Stick to bottled water.

Info About Mexico:


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Travel Writer at Savoteur | + posts

Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, FOX, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more. When she’s not traveling, she can be found at hockey arenas all over BC cheering on her two young sons.