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In part one and two of my Mexico- Blogseries I told you all about the experiences I had in Mexico, how I saw the country through my eyes and how I fell in love with it. Now, I will tell you shortly about how and where I traveled and then get into the practical part- what you should keep in mind when traveling to Mexico. Enjoy and buen viaje!
So, I was in Mexico for about 2 and a half weeks, which is way too short for the trip we took, but that’s unfortunately all the time I had. I traveled with a 40L backpack and my small camera bag, which together made up my carry-on luggage. After landing in Cancun (which was the cheapest route to go for me from Duessldorf, Germany: I only paid 400 € there and back using Skyscanner.com), I spent 2 days there on my own at a very cool hostel called Orquideas hostel. I went on to Mexico City, taking a flight with Vivaaerobus, where I met up with a friend, who is originally from and lives in Mexico City. He and two other friends (one from Mexico, one from Canada) picked me up at the airport and we got on the road to Oaxaca right away.
The places that we went included Oaxaca (and nearby Monte Alban), Zipolite, Mazunte (which is right next to Zipolite), Puerto Escondido, Tecolutla, Tuxpan (where we had some exciting little incidents happen) and Mexico City.
My absolute favourite was definitely Zipolite with its hippie vibe, beautiful, almost entirely empty beach and amazing atmosphere. It’s a tiny little town, with not much going on, but if you enjoy being in smaller places by the ocean, it’s absolutely wonderful. I also really liked Mazunte and Oaxaca. Mexico City was way too big for my taste, though I still enjoyed being there and checking out some of the places there (there’s so much to do in MC!).
I’ll tell you more about the places we went in a later post, but for now let’s get into the important stuff.. What you need to know when traveling to Mexico.
Traveling in Mexico
I’m sure question number one on most people’s list of things to think about, will be the issue of safety. I heard the worst things when I decided to travel to Mexico on my own. Many people I told (who themselves had never been to Mexico, by the way) advised me not to go. One thing I’ve learned though: Stick to what people tell you that have actually (at best recently) been to the country you’re traveling to, especially if they have a similar way of traveling (and don’t usually just stay in the boundaries of their hotel complex).
To be honest, I was a bit anxious at first, mainly because of what people had told me, but apart from a few small, surprising incidents nothing bad happened at all. Even in the first days of being alone around Cancun and when I was alone any of the other times, I never felt afraid or threatened in any way, even carrying around my DSLR with me. You just need to use common sense, avoid situations that might get you into trouble and you’ll be fine.
From what I have been told by locals, the states of Michoacan and Guerrero are still having problems, so you might want to avoid those. Also the states right on the border to Texas are known to be unsafe due to cartel violence. If you want to be really careful, you should stick to the South of Mexico, as Yucatan and Quintana Roo are the safest places to go, but of course you’ll be running into a few more tourists there than in most other places. Mexico City is also pretty safe, as long as you don’t wander off into the outskirts and the ghettos of M.C.
The thing that I personally found more threatening? La policia.
It was weird to me because here in Germany, sure, cops can be total dicks at times. But usually they do stick to the law and will help when you’re in trouble. In Mexico I felt that due to the general corruptness, the police are given way too much power and thus can step all over you if they want to. I’m sure that there are cops though that do have a moral compass and some officers we saw were actually pretty nice. You’ll probably only get into close contact with the police, if you’re traveling by car (and then it always helps to be able to speak some Spanish).
Read more on the experiences we had with the police here.
There are a few things you should keep in mind health-wise when traveling to Mexico. Especially if you’re from a European country your stomach might not be used to some of the bacteria that can be in the food there, so you might want to be a bit careful with what you eat and drink in Mexico. I found that out the hard way when I came back with a little thing called E.coli, which really wasn’t too much fun. I literally ate everything when I was there though, so just keep an eye out (and try not to eat at just any taco stand along the way 😉 ) More on eating in Mexico here.
Concerning vaccinations, check with your doctor, or better yet: Go to yout next Tropical Insitute. I got no extra vaccinations before my trip, I had already had the standard ones that are recommended and if you want you can take some Malaria prophylaxis with you.
For me, one of the biggest problems were the gazillion mosquitos, especially when we were at the ocean (I always get eaten up either way, for whatever reason). So don’t forget that moquito repellent and I’d also recommend taking a mosquito net aswell (which I didn’t have with me unfortunately). If you do get bitten a lot: Cut an onion in half and press it on the bites. It’s stinky, but it helps.
Another thing that was actually a bit funny to me:
Pharmacies or doctors in some of the smaller places might not always look like the doctor’s offices you know from home. Since I have cystic fibrosis and need loads of different pills, inhalants and so on I am bound to have to go to the doctor or pharmacy at some point during my trips. Unfortunately we were in tiny Zipolite when my asthma spray ran out (I had to use a lot unfortunately because of the extremely different climates and altitudes we drove through in such a short time). We had no idea where to get a prescription at that moment, so we just tried our luck and went to the local “24/7 farmacia”, which was pretty much nothing other than a little house at the end of a gravel road. You literally had to cross a small bridge on to this guy’s property and call the doctor/ pharmacist (or whatever the hell he was) from outside of his house, because there was no doorbell. The man that came out, was what you might call a stereotypical Mexican: Boots, jeans, cowboy hat, Polo-shirt, moustache. He was very friendly though and brought us what I needed right away, not asking for a prescription, but just 20 pesos, which worked out just fine for me. 😉
Like in many places English will get you pretty far- as long as you stay in the bigger cities and touristic areas. But as soon as you head anywhere else- it might get a bit difficult. Even though I spent some time learning Spanish in Spain and there can communicate fairly well, I had some difficulties in Mexico. I learned that Mexicans use a lot of slang, so it was hard for me to even understand most of what was being said. Still, I recommend to at least learn some basic Spanish. It will be way easier for you to find your way around, ask people for advice, talk to bus drivers etc.- little things that will go a long way when traveling in Mexico. And believe me, it’s a very different experience being able to speak to the locals and they will be so happy that you’re at least trying to speak their language! (Just be sure to tell them to please speak slowly when answering your questions 😉 )
Since I mainly traveled around by car I can’t tell you all that much about other means of transportation. I did take a few busses, but that was mostly in Cancun and not cross-country. The regional bus lines are supposed to be really good though, especially when riding in one of the first-class busses. Will definitely be trying out the cross-country busses in Mexico next time I’m there.
Want to travel by car aswell? Driving in Mexico is pretty exciting. The things you see along the way can include pilgrims on bicycles, pick-up trucks with loads of people in the back, interesting little villages, and in any case: beautiful scenery everywhere you look. Depending on where you go though, the roads can be kind of crappy. Loads of ditches, streets that are hardly lit and especially in the mountains, some curves can be preeetty tight. Oh, and watch out for those road bumps, they’re fierce! (For those of you in the passengers’ seats: You won’t be getting any sleep during your drives 😉 )
So, those are the most important things to keep in mind even though I’m sure you could add loads more. If you have any more questions, comment here or write me an email! I’d love to incorporate your questions in another blog post about Mexico in the future.
And if you get the chance to travel to Mexico, please do! You won’t regret it 🙂
Read the first and second part of my Mexico- Blogseries here: