|Culture and Arts||Mexican culture reflects the complexity of the country’s history through the blending of indigenous cultures and the culture of Spain, imparted during Spain’s 300-year colonial rule of Mexico. Exogenous cultural elements have been incorporated into Mexican culture as time has passed.
The Porfirian era (el Porfiriato), in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century, was marked by economic progress and peace. After four decades of civil unrest and war, Mexico saw the development of philosophy and the arts, promoted by President Díaz himself. Since that time, as accentuated during the Mexican Revolution, cultural identity has had its foundation in the mestizaje, of which the indigenous (i.e. Amerindian) element is the core. In light of the various ethnicities that formed the Mexican people, José Vasconcelos in La Raza Cósmica (The Cosmic Race) (1925) defined Mexico to be the melting pot of all races (thus extending the definition of the mestizo) not only biologically but culturally as well. Other Mexican intellectuals grappled with the idea of Lo Mexicano, which seeks “to discover the national ethos of Mexican culture.” Nobel laureate Octavio Paz explores the notion of a Mexican national character in The Labyrinth of Solitude.
|Currency||1 peso = 100 centavos. Please note that Mexicans use the $ symbol to denote prices in pesos. If a price is in dollars, they will typically write “dolares”.|
|Customs & Regulations||It is illegal to bring food, agricultural products, or weapons and ammunition into Mexico. Textiles are a protected sector of the economy: make sure any clothes you bring into Mexico are clearly not in a saleable condition (in cellophane etc.)|
|Date format||dd/mm/yy, or mm/dd/yy|
|Electricity||127V, 60Hz. Use US-style 2- or 3-pin plugs.|
Rio Lerma 71
Urgent helpline: (0052) 55 1670 3200U.S. Embassy
Paseo de la Reforma 305
(+52) 55-5080-2000The United States also has consulates in Ciudad Juarez, Guadalajara, Hermosillo, Matamoros, Merida, Monterrey, Nuevo Laredo, Nogales and Tijuana.
|Environment & Environmental Hazards||Tap water in Mexico is not generally potable and should only be used for handwashing, at least initially. Air pollution is a hazard in urban areas such as Mexico City.|
|Ethnic groups||The total percentage of Mexico’s indigenous peoples tends to vary depending of the criteria used by the government on its censuses: it is 5.4% if the ability to speak an indigenous language is used as the criteria to define a person as indigenous, if racial self-identification is used it is 14.9% and if people who consider themselves part indigenous are also included it amounts to 23%. Nonetheless, all the censuses conclude that the majority of Mexico’s indigenous population is concentrated in rural areas of the southern and south-eastern Mexico: Maya in Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Campeche; Mixtec and Zapotec in Oaxaca; Tzeltal and Tzotzil Maya in Chiapas; Otomi in Hidalgo; Nahua in Puebla and Guerrero; and Totonac in San Luis Potosi and Veracruz.|
|Etiquette||Tipping at least 10% in a restaurant is recommended but not obligatory. The more you smile and say please (por favor) and thank you (gracias), the easier and more pleasant your journey will be.|
|Food||Considered a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, since November 16, 2010, Mexican gastronomy offers the world flavours, colours, aromas, textures and even sounds that very few countries in the world could boast.
There is no other country that has such an incredibly diverse gastronomy, with so much history and tradition. In very few countries you can find colours as bright as the green of avocado, nopales and chilies, the dark red of beets, the yellow of corn or peppers, the pink of pine nuts, the black of sapote, the Mexican pink of the pitahaya. Traditional dishes range from the simplest tacos to a mole that can have up to 100 ingredients; or a pipian; or a marinade. And not to mention a champurrado, a very thick traditional atole, made with crushed corn and dark chocolate.
|Getting around||We do not recommend travelling solo around Mexico and/or without a local guide, even if you speak Spanish. Do not allow yourself to become distracted. Avoid the Tepito area of Mexico City.|
|Government website||https://www.gob.mx (in Spanish)|
|Health insurance||Foreign travellers to Mexico are strongly advised to arrange health/travel insurance before travelling. Minor health costs such as doctor’s visits or prescriptions are cheap, but hospital costs can quickly escalate.|
|History||Pre-Columbian Mexico traces its origins to 8,000 BC and is identified as one of six cradles of civilization; it was home to many advanced Mesoamerican civilizations, most well-known among them the Maya and the Aztecs. In 1521, the Spanish Empire conquered and colonized the territory from its base in Mexico City, which then became known as New Spain. The Catholic Church played an important role as millions of indigenous inhabitants converted. These populations were heavily exploited to mine rich deposits of precious material, which became a major source of wealth for the Spanish. Mexico became an independent nation state after the successful Mexican War of Independence against Spain in 1821.
The War of Texas Independence in 1836 and the Mexican–American War led to huge territorial losses in Mexico’s sparsely populated north, contiguous to the United States. The newly instituted reforms that granted protection to indigenous communities, and curtailed the power of the military and the church, were enshrined in the Constitution of 1857. This triggered the War of the Reform and French intervention. Maximilian Habsburg was installed as emperor by France and Benito Juárez kept an opposing republican government in exile. The following decades were marked by instability and dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz, who sought to modernize Mexico and restore order. The Porfiriato ended with the Mexican Revolution in 1910 and the winning Constitutionalist faction drafted a new 1917 Constitution. The revolutionary generals of the winning northern faction dominated the 1920s and served as presidents, but the 1928 assassination of Alvaro Obregón led to the formation of the Institutional Revolutionary Party in 1929, under which Mexico was a one-party state until 2000.
|Insurance||We always recommend travelling with insurance. If you wish to rent a car, buy insurance locally from the rental company unless you are certain that your existing policy will cover you.|
|Media||A wide variety of Spanish-speaking media from Mexico and around the world. US television channels such as CNN, Fox or HBO may also be available.|
|Medical checklist||Do not drink the tap water, unless specifically told it is potable. Protect yourself from malaria and dengue by avoiding mosquito bites. Suggested vaccinations (according to cdc.gov): routine vaccinations, MMR, hepatitis A, typhoid. Some travellers may also need hepatitis B and rabies vaccinations.|
|Official language||Spanish. There are 68 recognised Amerindian languages but Spanish is spoken throughout the country. English is not widely spoken outside Cancun or large hotel chains.|
|Photography||There are no cultural taboos against photography although it’s always nice to ask people’s permission first: “Puedo tomarle una foto?”|
|Post and couriers||We suggest traWellers use international couriers (DHL, FedEx or UPS) for their important parcels rather than the official post office, Correos de Mexico.|
|Religions||Mexico is 82% Catholic, 7% Protestant and 5% “irreligious”.|
|Smoking||Usually banned indoors, but bans are unevenly enforced. Some restaurants have smoking zones.|
|Taxes||Value-Added Tax (IVA) is 16%. Hotels may also levy city taxes per night.|
|Time zones||Mexico has four separate time zones. Cancun is GMT-5, although Mexico City and 75% of the country use GMT-6. Observance of Daylight Saving Time varies locally.|
|Tourist information||The official tourist information portal is https://www.visitmexico.com/en/. British citizens, at the time of writing, are entitled to visit Mexico for up to 180 days per trip.|
|Travellers with disabilities||Not all tourist attractions are disability-friendly, but locals will be quick to help you if asked. We recommend travelling with a Spanish-speaking companion for this purpose.|
|Toilets||In areas with low-capacity plumbing, some toilet cubicles contain bins for used toilet paper. Use of these bins is discretionary but usually recommended.|
|Visa||Tourists usually receive a visa on arrival, valid for 180 days. For details, please check visa checker.|
|Women travellers||We do not recommend travelling solo around Mexico and/or without a local guide, even if you speak Spanish. Do not allow yourself to become distracted.|