Facts for visitors: Essential things to know for new arrivals



Spanish is the official language of Mexico and is spoken throughout the country. However, there are as many as 62 dialects, the most widely spoken being Náhuatl, Maya and Mixteco. Though English is spoken in many places – especially among government officials and business executives – it is advisable to learn some basic Spanish before arrival.


There are 77 airports in Mexico, 59 of which are international. Due to the large size of the country – spanning nearly 2m sq km – flying is one of the most common modes of transport.

Numerous low-cost airlines such as Interjet, Volaris and VivaAerobús operate key routes. The country’s flag carrier, Aeroméxico, also operates domestic routes. Although flight prices are low, airport taxes tend to be high, which means that a round-trip flight between Mexico City and Cancún will cost around MXN2500-3000 ($129-155).

The most popular means of transport is by bus, with almost 1bn tickets sold a year. Passenger trains are underdeveloped, though the government is looking to boost rail services. The long-awaited train between Mexico City and Toluca is scheduled to open in December 2018. Vehicle traffic, which is heavy throughout Mexico, is especially so in big cities. Mexico City – the third-largest metropolitan area in the world – has a population of over 20m and grinds to a halt during rush hour. Taxis in Mexico are ubiquitous and affordable. However, for safety and security reasons, the use of ride-hailing platforms such as Uber, Cabify or taxis de sitio (vehicles from a taxi stand) is recommended. The metro and metrobús are also popular among local residents, though not as much among tourists.

Etiquette & Attire

A handshake for men and one kiss on the cheek for women is usually the first introduction in a business setting, and it is used both as a greeting and farewell. Standard business attire is the same as that worn in European countries or the US.

Drinking Water

Tap water, though potable, is not recommended for drinking, especially for newcomers. The water contains microbes that require a long time to get accustomed to in order to avoid health problems. It is also worth pointing out that Mexico is the world’s largest consumer of bottled water per capita. By drinking tap water, one risks contracting “Montezuma’s revenge”, or traveller’s diarrhoea.

Currency & Tipping

The local currency is the peso. Banknotes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000, and coins range from 50 cents up to 10 pesos. Most ATMs accept international debit cards. There are many exchange offices, but it is advisable to change less common currencies into pesos, euros or dollars before arrival. Many shops and businesses do not accept credit cards, so it is recommended to keep cash on hand.

Since restaurant bills usually do not include gratuity, a 10-12% tip is common. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped, but it is common to round up to the next five or 10 pesos. However, if you have agreed upon a fare, there is no need to give extra.


Citizens from 65 countries are not required to obtain a visa before entering Mexico, and can stay up to 180 days for both tourism and business purposes. These countries include the US, the UK, all countries in the Schengen area of the EU and most of Latin America. Citizens from other countries should apply for a visa from any Mexican embassy or consulate. These also permit a maximum stay of 180 days.

SIM Cards

Mexico has three main mobile operators: Telcel, Movistar and AT&T. All providers have country-wide coverage that includes high-speed internet services and numerous branches. The most popular provider is Telcel, and its SIM cards can be bought at any store selling its products. SIM cards cost around $10 and come with airtime. Pre-paid data packages are also available for purchase, and online re-charging is possible with most mobile operators.

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Cover of The Report: Mexico 2019

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