As a popular budget vacation destination, Mexico is often looked upon for its beautiful beaches, great weather and strong tequila. Unfortunately, it has a bad reputation as a dangerous city. In recent news, the media shows the devastation of Mexico’s drug wars, kidnappings and poverty. It gives Mexico a bad name, but luckily, backpackers still consider Mexico a place to see. Since it is such a questionable destination, here are some things you might want to know.
- You wouldn’t think so, but it can sometimes get a bit chilly (And no, I’m not talking about the food). Mexico can be surprisingly mountainous in some areas, so if you’re travelling inland bring a jumper or a fat, wooly friend who doesn’t mind cuddling.
- Don’t get into a drinking competition with a Mexican. You will lose. I learnt that the hard way in an old cantina on a dusty street in Oaxaca. An old man, about 70, indicated he could drink his michelada (Beer with tomato juice, chili powder and other spices. Tastes amazing) faster than I could. I scoffed at the very idea. I then lost, shamefully, and had to buy the next round. Which I also lost. The cycle continued until he had won the very last of my pesos, dignity and girlfriend.
- Learn some Español. A lot of people will advise you to take some conversational classes to learn the standard traveller fare like ‘a ticket for the bus please’ (Un billete para el autobús, por favor), or ’how much for a room with a roof?’ (¿Cuánto cuesta una habitación con techo?) but if you’re time-poor (or just poor-poor) all you really need to know is toilet (baños), more beer (más cerveza), and I like your moustache (Me gusta el bigote). Of course, you could take advantage of one of the many free Spanish language podcasts on iTunes, like Coffee Break Spanish, which I use and love.
- Despite what you may have heard, you won’t get robbed in Mexico City. Well, probably not. I wish I had known that before I went to Mexico. Instead, I was regaled with horror stories of ‘friends of friends’ getting mugged or losing a kidney in Mexico City. I was so scared, that I spent the majority of my first Mexico trip glancing over my shoulder and doing my best (failing miserably) to look like a black belt master. I needn’t have bothered though, Mexico City is one the friendliest cities I’ve ever visited and not once did I feel unsafe.
In fact, Mexico doesn’t even get a mention in the listverse.com Top 10 most dangerous places on earth, and Antarctica comes in at number So there you go, safer than Antartica.Obviously if you’re strolling around the districts of Tepito or Iztapalapa, sporting a Rolex or fiddling with your iPhone, you might have a different experience.
- If you arrive but fly out, leave enough time to pay the ‘land tax’ at the airport. I spent a hectic hour dashing around Cancun airport trying to find the office to pay my tax, reaching my departure gate with only 5 minutes to spare, which is of course, just enough time to hit the duty free shop to pick up a tasty bottle of Mescal to take back home. Felices Viajes!