Elements of Spanish, North American and traditional Mexican culture combine to make this country one of the most colorful and vibrant additions to any travel itinerary. From Mayan ruins and jungles filled with parrots, to the bustling nightclubs of Cancun and the seediness of Tijuana and everything in between, Mexico has a lot to offer travelers. There are also 26 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the country, which in itself is impressive.
Destination Guides for Mexico
Accommodation – Hostel prices can be as low as 150 MXN per night, although 250 MXN is more realistic, especially in the bigger cities. For budget hotel accommodation, plan for around 900 MXN per night for a double occupancy room.
Food – Mexican food is very affordable. By purchasing food from street vendors or local markets, you can expect to spend around 240 MXN per day or less. If you eat at some of the sit down restaurants or in the tourist areas, expect to pay about 400 MXN a day for food. You can get some pretty bad-ass tequila for as cheap as 240 MXN.
Transportation – Most of Mexico is served by buses, with longer journeys varying in price. A bus from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara (5.5 hours) costs around 480 MXN. Taxi fares start from 16 MXN in most cities.
Activities – Diving is likely to be the most expensive activity you choose to do here, with day trips usually costing over 2,400 MXN. Entrance to the many Mayan sites in the country is around 160 MXN.
Money Saving Tips
Eat market food – Mexico’s markets are a great place to eat inexpensively and also to stock up on food for day trips.
Travel off-season – By traveling between late April and early December, you can pick up bargain accommodation, food and travel rates.
Venture Inland – Mexico’s coasts are the most famous, most touristy parts of the country, but the interior has an amazing amount to offer. Prices are cheaper, and you’ll be more likely to meet some locals if you head away from the coast.
Top Things to See and Do in Mexico
Visit the markets – Mexico’s markets are a great place to experience traditional food, pick up a bargain, and purchase plenty of souvenirs. Head to the Ciudadela market in Mexico City or Oaxaca for folk art.
Wander through Chapultepec Park – Chapultepec is one of the largest city parks in the world, encompassing the Mexico City Zoo, Atlantis (marine life park), La Feria amusement park and the world class Museum of Anthropology. The park is a must if you are visiting Mexico City.
See Chichén Itzá – Chichen Itza is a large Mayan archaeological site located in the north of the Yucatan Peninsula. The site has been declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and is thought to be the best Mayan site in Mexico. The most impressive structure on the site is the 78 feet tall Temple of Kukulkan, or the “Castillo” as it is often known. The site also boasts elaborate wall carvings, a ball court, and intricately-designed columns.
Explore the Zócalo (Plaza de la Constitución) – The Zócalo is at the heart of Mexico City and it encompasses the Templo Mayor and the Palacio Nacional. Situated just off the Zócalo is La Catedral Metropolitana a magnificent cathedral fortified with gold and a beautiful example of Spanish colonial architecture.
Trek Around Tulum – Many visitors combine sightseeing with a day’s swimming and relaxing on the beach but Tulum is also situated right next to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site – prime trekking ground for those who want to experience jungle wildlife living amidst pristine rainforests and Mayan ruins. I really enjoyed the ruins here. It’s beautiful setting and the beach swimming around Mayan ruins was an amazing experience.
Visit a volcano – Mexico has over active 30 volcanoes. Most volcanoes are found within national parks, and these offer some of the best hiking and mountain biking in the country. Popocatepetl frequently features in the top 10 lists of must-see volcanoes in the world but it is closed to climbing since it is so active, so tourists favour Paricutin and Orizaba.
Go diving – The seas surrounding Mexico make for some of the world’s best diving spots with their diverse marine life, coral reefs (including the second largest reef system in the world, the Great Maya Barrier Reef) and excellent visibility. Aside from diving, the waters are popular with snorkelers, sports fishermen and more or less any other watersport enthusiast.
Honour the Day of the Dead – On November 2nd, Mexico celebrates this yearly festival. Contrary to its name the festival is a vibrant and lively affair with celebrations for those who are gone but not forgotten. If you want a real taste of Mexican culture then the sights and sounds of this festival are an interesting experience.
Party in Cancun – Depending on what you’re looking to do, Cancun can offer you a crazy fun, party in the sun, or some quiet and hidden local markets and restaurants. On the one hand, you have spas, resorts, and picturesque beaches. On the other, you have Mayan ruins, archaeological sites, and little nearby villages.
Get active – Laying around on the beach is great and all, but there is a ton of stuff to do. Consider surfing, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, sea kayaking, zip-lining, caving, and more. Mexico is a great country for the adrenaline junkie.
Get lost in Guadalajara – This urban sprawl has a major downtown and plenty of culture to check out. There are many museums to explore, nightclubs for dancing, and colonial streets to wander.
Visit the Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera – Outside of Guanajuato, this is a great place to escape to for an afternoon. Now a museum, complete with beautiful, manicured gardens, this was once the home of descendants from the Conde de Rul during the 17th century. This home is another product of the prosperous mining of the surrounding area.
Get your Aztec history fix – Mayan culture gets all the glory for being found along the touristy coast, but the Aztec empire was equally impressive and has left an enormous mark on Mexico. Check out the awe-inspiring Aztec pyramids at Teotihuacan, located 30 miles outside of Mexico City. It’s hot and unsheltered here, so bring sunscreen and a hat.
Relax on the Pacific Coast – While the beaches may not be as beautiful as the east coast, the Pacific side of Mexico has just as many resorts and opportunities for partying and surfing. Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos, Huatulco, and Sayulita are popular vacation spots. Diving is better on the Gulf of Mexico, however.
Indulge your love of tequila and mariachis – The province of Jalisco is home to Tequila and Mariachis, as well as tortas ahogadas (a food similar to a Sloppy Joe). Take all three of these in combination and you have the perfect recipe for a memorable night out.