FAQ's

These are some of the questions we get asked most frequently. We hope that they will help you and answer some of your questions about travel to Mexico. We will add to the list of questions and answers any time we feel it is necessary. Also check our Miscellaneous Information page and our Practical Advice section.

What can I use as proof of citizenship to enter Mexico?

To enter Mexico you need to obtain (provided by your airline, if flying) a Tourist Card (FMT). To get your Tourist Card you will need to prove citizenship, a passport is best for this purpose. Other forms of accepted proof of citizenship include, certified birth certificate, voter's registration card, naturalization papers or a notarized affidavit of citizenship. A photo ID is is a must, a passport can serve as proof of citizenship and a photo ID. Airlines will furnish the Tourist Card. Be sure to save the copy that is returned to you by immigration officials upon entry into the country, as you must present this copy when leaving Mexico.

The Mexican Consulate of Chicago answers this question on their web site. Click here, their web site will open in a new window, then click on the link that says Visa Section.

Do we need to change our money into pesos before we arrive in Mexico?

Not really, if you are bringing U.S. dollars. But...if it is easy go ahead and change some money, so you won't have to bother in the airport or have to find a money exchange or a bank right away. Many hotels will be happy to change your dollars into pesos for you. Most business and restaurants, in the larger cities and tourist areas, readily accept U.S. dollars. There are money exchanges (Casa de Cambio) in most airports, but if you are arriving very early (or late) they may not be open. Banks usually have the best rates but also specialize in shockingly terrible service and usually have very long lines, it is not unusual to wait over an hour to change money in a bank. You can change most currencies in the money exchanges and banks, but businesses will usually accept only pesos or U.S. dollars. In most major tourist resorts you can probably get by without ever buying any pesos. You will usually (not always) get better prices (by way of the rate of exchange) if you pay in pesos.

Do I need to speak Spanish to enjoy my trip?

In most cases, no. Obviously it depends on where you are traveling to. Most hotels, restaurants and the majority of tour and activity operators in the beach resorts and major cities have personal that speak English. The farther you get away from the more popular locations and city centers you can expect less English will be spoken. Even in the major cities you will probably not be able to converse in English while shopping in neighborhood stores and shops. Print our our handy "Helpful Spanish for Travelers" guide or carry a pocket dictionary. Your efforts to speak Spanish will be appreciated by the locals.

What is the current exchange rate?

The peso floats against the dollar, so it varies. We have a link to check the current exchange rate and to a currency converter on our Helpful Links page. A small calculator can be a big help.

How can I keep track of all the local events that will take place during my visit to Mexico?

The best thing to do is check with the local tourism department, upon arrival. Many cities publish a monthly or quarterly publication of local events. Get the number from your hotel or check our Links page for a list of official tourism web sites. Many hotels will have a current list of local events. It may be necessary to check in the local newspaper. Even if you don't read Spanish, the entertainment section is usually pretty easy to figure out.

What if I want to drive into Mexico? What is needed?

Insurance! That is very important, as your U.S. insurance will not cover you in Mexico. Damage to your car may be covered, within a specific mileage limit from the border (check carefully). You must obtain liability insurance because your U.S. policy, most certainly, does not cover you in Mexico. If you should happen to be in an injury accident without liability insurance the consequences can be overwhelming. Do not take any chances! See our Practical Advise section for more information on what is needed to bring your car into Mexico.

What if I need to have money sent to me in Mexico?

Western Union is probably the easiest, they have many worldwide locations where the money can be sent from. In Mexico you can get your money at most government run telegraph offices or any Electra store (there are over 300). You will need a photo ID and your tourist permit to pick up the money. Transfers to a local bank branch is possible, but overly complicated, as is any banking transaction in Mexico.

What will the weather be like in January (or any other month)?

Nobody can predict the weather, period! We have provided access to Average Temperature Charts and weather links for most major cities and resorts on our "Weather" page. Check this or call your hotel a day or two before your arrival if you wish to be sure.

Can I buy Cuban cigars? Can I take them back with me?

Yes you can buy them, and yes, they are expensive. Be careful of counterfeits. If you are returning to anywhere but the U.S. it is OK to take them back with you. If you live in the U.S. smoke your Cuban cigars on vacation because...(no matter what anyone tells you) they cannot be legally taken back to the U.S. Many sellers of Cuban cigars will tell you its OK, for any number of reasons. It is not OK!

Can I drink the water?

In "most" hotels and restaurants, you will get purified water. If there is any doubt - ASK! (Agua purificada, por favor.) Bottled water is usually safe. I would not drink the water from a private home or condo, unless you know there is a purification system installed, and in good working order. Buy bottled water! Why not be completely safe? Don't take even the slightest chance of ruining your vacation!

I want to move to Mexico and go to work. What do I need to do?

Get a job! Sounds simple enough...but any foreigner who wishes to work in Mexico must have a special permit from the government. There are many Mexicans who need jobs, and the theory is that they should have first choice at most of the jobs that are available. As a tourist you are not allowed to work under any circumstances. If you want to open a business and invest a great deal of money you will still need a permit to work. There are different types of permits and many foreigners work in Mexico, especially in the time share and real estate sectors. Usually your employer will secure the permit for you. There are different permits for those traveling temporally for business purposes and employees who will reside in Mexico. You can check with the nearest Mexican consulate for more specifics.

What about retirement in Mexico?

Retirement can be very rewarding and thousands of retirees enjoy the climate, cultural activities, costs of housing and cost of living benefits. Foreigners who wish to live full time in Mexico need a special visa. Many foreign property owners travel to, or live in Mexico, for less than six months or less at a time. They do this on a standard tourist visa. This is perfectly legal as long as you do not need to work, or want to seek employment during your visit. If you own property and wish to rent it during your absence you will need a special visa, you are also required to pay taxes on any rental income. Bringing a car in from your country of residence is another matter, check with the nearest Mexican consulate for specific requirements.

Will my cellular phone work in Mexico?

There is local cellular service in most areas. A few (not many) U. S. cellular services offer roaming service in Mexico. Most cell phones will work in Mexico, but they must be reprogrammed by the local service provider. If you plan on bringing your own, it will probably need to be programmed for local service. Remember to have your phone reprogrammed again before returning to the U.S. If you really need cellular service in Mexico, it might just be easier, and cheaper, to take advantage of one of the many low priced cellular promotions that includes a phone and a pre-set amount of time. You will then have a phone you can use whenever you are traveling to Mexico. You can always add more time, if needed, on your next trip.

Can I use my laptop computer to get my e-mail? What about Internet access?

You can bring your laptop computer, you will have to contact one of local ISP's who may be able provide you with temporary Internet access for your limited stay. Many of the larger hotels in Mexico have modem ports that let you bypass their PBX phone system. If they have a data port on their phones you should have no problem, set your modem to dial whatever number you normally dial for an outside line, then your ISP's access number. Bringing a laptop computer into Mexico computer is a legal and accepted practice, no hassles with Aduana (Customs). There are Cyber Cafes in all areas of Mexico, even the smaller cities.

Is it safe to walk around the cities at night?

Generally, yes (with Mexico City being an exception). As anywhere, beware of walking alone on dark streets at night. Don't wear flashy jewelry or carry large sums of cash if you must walk at night. If possible walk in pairs and stick to busy, well lit areas of the city. Most restaurants and nightclubs will be happy to call a cab for you, if asked. This may take a little more time than hailing one on the street but is generally safer. You will probably feel safer in Mexico than you do in most larger cities in the United States. The city police here are usually friendly and helpful, but few speak much English. Some tourist areas have special tourist police, they speak English and are there especially for tourists. Use common sense, and be careful!

What if I get into trouble? Who should I call?

Hopefully you won't need to get out of trouble. Remember to be polite, no matter what the problem is. This is very important in Mexico. Print our "Embassy List" and take it with you, they can advise you although they cannot provide legal help, they can call your relatives and give you the telephone numbers of local attorneys. Also, write this number down and carry it with you. Tourist Assistance - Toll Free from anywhere in Mexico 01 (800) 903-9200.

Can you tell me what the taxi rates will be?

No, but the taxi fares are usually reasonable in most cities (with Los Cabos being an exception and a terrible example). For rate information always check with the desk at your hotel. They should be able to tell you what the approximate fare should be to your particular destination. Then check again with the taxi driver, before you get in. Buses are a very popular form of transportation in Mexico. They usually cover most of the metro area of the city, and usually you will not have to wait more than fifteen minutes in for a bus. In the larger cities buses run well into the early hours of morning. For just a few pesos you can go anywhere in the city, within reason. See also, Practical Advice for Travelers. At airports there is usually a set rate to different zones within a city. Usually (in airports) you prepay at a booth and then present the receipt to your driver.

How will I know if I am getting a good deal on merchandise?

This is a question that nobody but you can answer. A good rule of thumb is...with street vendors, always get at least a 30% discount, sometimes more. In most stores, especially in the malls, prices are fixed just as they are at home. If you are making large purchases or if there are several people in your party that are buying something, you can ask for a discount anywhere. If you’re happy with the quality and price of of an item, then you are getting a good deal. Its pretty simple really.

What about doctors and hospitals?

Mexico has some very good hospitals and some excellent doctors. Many doctors in Mexico speak English. Check with your hotel, many of the larger hotels have English speaking doctors on premises or on call. If not, they can give you the name, and number, of an English speaking doctor. Write the phone number down and carry it with you. If there is any doubt in your mind about a doctor, procedure or medication, check with your doctor at home, if possible. Generally speaking, medical service in Mexico, in most geographical areas, is not as sophisticated as in the U.S. or Canada, although there are exceptions.

In outlying areas, the chances of finding an English speaking doctor or even adequate medical care facilities can be next to impossible. If you are traveling very far from a major city, perhaps a small investment in a cellular phone is in order. Keep telephone numbers of English speaking contacts (doctors, relatives, consulates) handy so you can call, in case of an emergency. Always travel with the telephone number of your local doctor!

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