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Mexico Travel Advice
Mexico Travel Advice

Business Hours and Public Holidays in Mexico

Business Hours

Shops: Shopping hours in big towns and cities start at around10 or 11 am, and continue through to between 8 and 10 pm. Shops in cities and big towns are open 7 days; smaller places may close on Sundays, except tourist spots at high season. Christmas & Easter public holidays are observed; on other public holidays you'll find most things open in cities and bigger towns and tourist spots. Smaller towns will have more limited opening hours, and in hotter, non-tourist regions may close between 2 and 4 pm; check locally.

Banks: Banks in Mexico are beginning to get their act together from a commercial view-point. Branches are now open from 9am to 4pm in many cities and big towns, and some even open Saturday mornings. HSBC now opens from 8am to 8pm six days a week.

Office Hours: Commercial Office hours tend to run in line with those of the US and the UK - 8am - 6pm. Lunch breaks usually last an hour, but business lunches can go on much longer.

Churches: Some churches are permanently open; others are locked up if there is no service going on, especially those hosting valuable art or artifacts. If you visit a church, be mindful of those inside who may be taking part in a church service.

Museums: Museums tend to have specific opening hours, and those outside of the major tourist areas usually close for a day in the week (often Mondays, not always) - so it's best to check beforehand if you want to visit a specific museum.

Archaeology Parks: Archaeology parks are open from 8am to 5pm, and all except those in the most frequented tourist areas (e.g. Chichen Itza in Yucatan) are closed on Mondays.

                                                Public Holidays in Mexico

Video and Photography in Mexico

Buying Tape / Film in Mexico

Video tape is readily available for purchase in Mexico.

Film is also widely available. The most widely sold brands are Kodak and Fuji film. You can buy film in 35mm as well as all other main (current) formats, including the newer "Advanced Photo System" (APS) film cartridges.

Video and Photography Etiquette in Mexico

Museums: Some museums and all major archaeology parks will make a small charge if want to take a handheld video recorder into the museum or site with you; some make a charge for cameras, although this is rare. Some will not allow flash photography; especially on ancient stonework and murals as it affects the longevity of the work. You'll see notices written in Spanish and English that will advise you at each location.

Tripods: The use of tripods at all archaeological sites and some museums requires a permit. If you want to use a tripod you will need to apply for special permission from INBA (the government department that manages archaeological sites and some museums) and there will be a significant fee and plenty of paperwork involved. If you are outside Mexico, contact your local Mexican Consulate for information and details. These sites offer a "package hold" facility for people carrying tripods, where they can be left until you leave the site or museum.

Etiquette: Be mindful of people you photograph, and if possible, ask their permission first - especially in small provincial communities and in the State of Chiapas, especially around San Cristobal de las Casas. Some places have restrictions on photography, and signs will be posted to advise you in such cases.

It's best not to photograph the army or any military installations to avoid any misunderstandings.

Churches: Taking pictures inside a church when there is a service going on is considered disrespectful, so you should refrain from doing it. Taking pictures inside a church at other times is acceptable in Mexico.

Filming Professionally in Mexico

If you are planning to travel to Mexico to film or take photographs professionally (including research, cultural, artistic and educational programs), you will need to apply for a temporary filming permit. Contact your local Mexican Consulate for details.

Drinking Alcohol in Mexico

Legal Drinking Age in Mexico

The legal minimum drinking age in Mexico is 18; three years before the USA's legal drinking age, which is why a lot of older American teenagers 'fly south' to Mexico for a weekend or longer.

Although it has been rare in the past, requests for proof of age or identification when asking for an alcoholic beverage in Mexico are on the rise. However, it is still nowhere near as strict as the USA, where anyone who looks under 21 is immediately asked for proof of age.

The Effect of Altitude

Many places inland Mexico are situated at altitude (for example, Mexico City, Guadalajara and most colonial cities) and at high altitudes, alcohol will have more effect on you than if you were drinking at, or close to, sea level.

Alcohol Licensing Laws in Mexico

Mexican stores, restaurants and bars are allowed to sell alcohol 24 hours a day.

Technically, it is illegal to drink on the street in Mexico, but some people do, especially in tourist areas. If you want to drink a cold beer while walking down a street on a hot day, go ahead; but don't be stupid and get drunk on the street: it will call attention to yourself, and you may end up having to deal with the police who, in such a circumstance may apply the letter of the law to your behavior.

Drinking and Driving in Mexico

Drinking and driving is a serious crime in Mexico. If you drink, take a cab, they're not expensive. If you're driving at night, or if you're a pedestrian near a tourist area with lots of bars, be extra vigilant of cars and traffic, especially in the early hours of the morning.

Mexico's police are stepping up their campaign against drunk-drivers with stiff penalties (including the prospect of prison sentences) for offenders. Don't drink and drive in Mexico: foreigners do not get any leniency for driving drunk.   If you hurt or kill someone in the process, you will end up in serious trouble.

Newspapers and Magazines in Mexico

English Language Media
The only English daily in Mexico is "The News", which was relaunched in 2007 after an absence of several years, the result of its parent Mexican paper Novedades being closed. The News is widely available in Mexico City and its distribution is being expanded to tourist destinations and other large cities.

Some magazine stalls at airports and a few specialized stores sell U.S., British or European newspapers, some of which can be a day or two old.

English-language 'global' news magazines such as Time, Newsweek, People, etc are available in their U.S. editions in cities and large towns in Mexico. The British based magazine 'Economist' is now available at larger news stands in the big cities.

Newspapers and magazines can be bought on street corner stall. Many supermarkets are now beginning to stock newspapers and magazines too; but not all of them.

Spanish Language Newspapers and Magazines in Mexico

Mexico has a wide selection of Spanish language newspapers from all sides of the political spectrum.

Latin Trade - Online version in English of the popular magazine that is dedicated to trade in Latin America

El Economista - Financial/Business Press, in Spanish

El Financiero - Financial/Business Press, in Spanish

Reforma - Mexico's biggest daily, in Spanish (subscription required)

El Universal - One of Mexico's biggest daily papers, news online does not require subscription, in Spanish

Magazines in Mexico

Popular Spanish language magazines include:

Proceso -- A weekly publication with informed commentary and opinion about Mexican and Latin American politics

Mexico Desconocido -- A travel magazine with lots of photos, dedicated to highlighting travel and tourism in Mexico

Traveling to Mexico with Children

Take your family to Mexico with confidence... Read the comprehensive guide about Traveling to Mexico with Children for detailed information about making the most of your family visit to Mexico.

Lone Parents and Minors Traveling to Mexico

The rules for minors (people under the age of 18) and lone parents* traveling with their children to Mexico have changed. See the Link to the guide above for full details.

*Lone parents includes single parents, and parents who are traveling with children and without their spouse or partner.

Tipping and Bargaining in Mexico

Mexico's Tipping Culture

Tipping in Mexico

Tipping is common in the United States: it is almost second-nature and practiced frequently at most service establishments. In many European countries, it is not so common or customary to tip people for services.

In Mexico, not only is it customary, it is expected and appreciated in return for good service.

Most people working in Mexico's tourism and service sectors rely on your tips to supplement their basic pay and they give good service to prove that it makes a significant difference to them.

When you are traveling in Mexico, always keep some loose change in your pocket because you never know when you're going to need some of it for a tip.

Even fringe services like someone at a taxi rank opening the door for you (and perhaps putting your cases in the car's trunk) should receive a small tip (just 1 or 2 pesos will suffice in these cases).

Some hotels and tours indicate that "all tips are included in the price"; if this is the case, fair enough, and there is no need to tip further. You may still wish to leave a small tip for the maids at the rooms you stay in, or offer the tour guide a small tip at the end of the program.

Although tips are frequent in Mexico, the amounts are relatively small, and they really can make a different to the person whom you are rewarding.

If you did not get poor service, you should consider tipping in these situations:

Restaurants - 10% - 15% is normal, depending on the class of establishment and level of service you received. At diners and similar places 10% is sufficient; at higher-end restaurants and bistros, 15% is expected for good service.

Hotels - Bellboys should be paid around US$1 per bag; Concierge around US$2 equivalent if they do something for you (e.g. book a table at a local restaurant); more if they undertake some particular research (e.g. found you a local tour operator, car rental agency, or chauffeur). If you don't speak Spanish, remember that they will also be acting as translators for you and you should take this into account with your tip.

Hotel Maids - Many people leave a tip for the Maid - about US$1-US$5 equivalent per night's stay, depending on the class of establishment. It's best to leave your tips daily as the maids who are assigned to look after your room are probably on a rota and may not be on duty the day you leave.

Gasoline Service Stations - If you rent a car and buy fuel, 3-5% of the cost of the fuel is normal, with 5-10% of the cost of the fuel if the attendant provides additional services (water, oil, tire pressure, etc). It's usual to leave a few pesos tip within a rounded amount; for example, if you are filling up with $200 pesos of fuel, then you may tell the attendant that you want $190 or $195 pesos of fuel; you hand over the $200 peso bill and the attendant keeps the change. Read related guide to Driving in Mexico. You'll need to ask for the additional services if you want them.

Car Valets - If you drive to a bar or restaurant and have your car parked by the establishment's valet service, you should tip the attendant around US$1 equivalent in pesos when you leave, unless the valet has a pre-advertised rate (probably higher than this) in which case, pay that rate and no more.

Porters - When you arrive at a bus station, airport or hotel there will usually be a group of porters nearby waiting to take your bags. US$1 per bag in pesos equivalent is sufficient; perhaps a little more if the bags are over-sized, particularly heavy or if the attendant offers some additional value, for example, some local advice or directions.

Bus Station Taxi Rank Attendants - If you carried your own bags to the official taxi booth at the bus station, you may find that there is an assistant waiting nearby there who will offer to carry your bags once you have purchased your ticket. You don't have to allow this person to help you, but if you do, you may find it more efficient getting the next taxi from the rank. See Traveling by Bus in Mexico for more details. US$1 in pesos equivalent is a fair tip. See Traveling by Bus in Mexico.

Taxis - If you take a cab from the street, it's appreciated if you round up the meter charge to nearest 5 or 10 pesos depending on the comfort and speed of your journey; however, taxis hired from taxi ranks at hotels or official taxi ranks should be paid the advertised rate (or the rate you agree in advance) and no more. Also read the guide about Traveling by Taxi in Mexico which includes a link to current taxi prices in Mexico.

Bars and Cantinas - Tables at these are often attended (you don't need to go to the bar to order food or drink) - and a tip of 10% of the value of your spending that evening is normal.

Car Park Attendants - Often, car parks will have an"attendant"; a man or woman dressed up in a security-type uniform, who may direct you to a free spot, and see you reverse out when you return. These attendants are often older men who also keep an eye on things while you're away. 2-3 Pesos is sufficient; a little more if they help you load your shopping bags into your car.

Spas - For personal services at Resort Spas, 10-15% of the value of the service (e.g. a Massage) is normal. If you're staying at a Destination Spa, you can tip good service personally, 5-10% of the service's 'stand alone' value is fine; or you can add a tip to your final bill, to cover everyone - even the 'behind the scenes' people - 10-15% of the bill is sufficient. For more information about Spas, read our guides to Spas in Mexico.

Toilets / Restrooms - Public toilets / restrooms are a rare sight, and if you find one, it may not be very pretty! Some public toilets now make a small charge for entry, and you'll find these are usually reasonably clean and tidy. If one of these is not available, go to a restaurant, bar (even if you're not eating or drinking at it) or department store if there's one nearby. You may well find an attendant there who is looking after the place, making sure it's clean tidy; some may hand you a paper towel to dry your hands. Near the wash-basins, you may see a small wooden box, sometimes with a piece of cloth inside (and usually a coin or three on it). 2-5 pesos tip, commensurate with the class of establishment, is sufficient.

Stop-Light Entertainers - In Mexico City particularly (but not exclusively) you may find that one or more informal entertainers begin to perform a short skit. The 'performance' may include juggling, eating fire, miming, et al. After the performance is over, the people walk between the stationary cars in search of a small tip. Tipping is at your discretion.

Foreign Native: Rush Hour Variety

Stop-Light Windscreen Wash - Some people will "wash" your vehicle's windscreen, sometimes whether you want ther service or not! Tipping is at your discretion.

Angeles Verdes - Meaning "Green Angels", these are trucks that are painted green and travel along Mexico's interstate highways helping people who have broken down. Their help is free, but they will charge you for parts and fuel if your car needs it. Be sure to tip the attendant; the amount is discretionary, and should relate to how much help they were in a particular circumstance (e.g. more at night) and on how much work they have done for you.

People who visit Mexico rate shopping at the local markets as one of the most rewarding travel experiences they encounter.

Mexican traders do love a good barter, but beware if they feel you are trying to devalue their goods too much, they will become upset and may even refuse to trade with you.

Bargaining and barter are common activities in Mexico, especially at markets and artifact stores and handicraft workshops.

Never accept the first price you're offered, but be realistic with your offers, and don't become too aggressive with your position.

Speaking Spanish - If you speak Spanish (even broken Spanish) you stand a much better chance of getting a better a deal on your purchases. This another good reason to Learn Spanish in preparation for your next visit to Mexico.

Markets and Street Traders - Mexican market traders are usually polite people who enjoy a good trade negotiation but, equally, they may become offended if you are too obstinate and will simply cease bargaining with you completely. Keep in mind that the people selling arts, crafts and artifacts are generally poor artisans making a simple living and often supporting a family. Some may also be the creators of the wares they are offering for sale, so any deep devaluation of their work might be taken personally, too.

Department Stores, Malls - Department stores and large (chain) hotels will not barter with you - you'll have more luck bartering with the check-out assistant of your local supermarket!

Taxis - Some taxis are not metered (especially in small provincial towns) - so strike a bargain with your price before you get in. Also read the guide about Traveling by Taxi in Mexico which includes a link to current taxi prices in Mexico.

Drinking Water in Mexico
When you're traveling in Mexico, you must take extra care when drinking water, or fresh beverages that may have tap water added to them. Also check the ice - ask if it was made with tap water especially in more rustic establishments and rural areas. Salads can also be dangerous if they have been rinsed with tap water so again, the rule is... if in doubt, ask first! All main hotels and good restaurants use purified water throughout.

Most hotels provide bottled water in all rooms, which you can use to drink and wash your teeth with, and many hotels now have potable water delivered through their taps using an on-site purification system; there will be a note in your room to advise you if this is the case.

If you carry a water bottle / canteen, your hotel will usually fill this for you from a large bottle of purified water before you set out on your day trip. All street vendors selling refreshments will sell you purified bottled water. Make sure that the cap is sealed.

All commercially produced beverages, including bottled and tinned water, fizzy drinks, wine, beer, spirits, etc will be perfectly safe for you to drink.

To make tap water safe, boil it for at least a few minutes; perhaps longer in locations situated at higher altitudes as the water boils at lower temperatures there. Water purification tablets and drops are available, but these generally have an adverse affect on the water's taste.

Electricity Socket in Mexico
Mexico's electricity system is the same as that of the USA: 120 V; 60 Hz. Any electrical equipment you carry with you that operates at the higher (240v) rate will need to be dual-voltage (e.g. hair driers). A lot of electrical equipment (like video cameras, digital cameras, laptops) that operate on 12 volts via a product-specific adaptor will happily cope with dual voltage - check the adaptor and the device instructions to be sure.

You may need a socket adaptor.  Most plugs in Mexico are the same as in the US; two flat prongs.   Some have a third, circular prong for earth, and adapters can be sought for these too if the plug you want to connect to doesn't have the third (earth) prong socket.

Time Zones in Mexico

Mexico's has three time zones.

Most of Mexico, including Mexico City and Merida, adheres to Central Time in the USA (same as Dallas, TX) and is always six hours behind GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).

The second time zone starts just north of Puerto Vallarta (Puerto Vallarta itself is not affected) and affects all areas on the coast north of here (including the popular beach destinations of Punta de Mita and Mazatlan) and ALL of Baja California Sur, including the popular areas of Los Cabos, La Paz, Loreto and Todos Santos. Note that Chihuahua City is NOT affected by the time zone change as it is too far east. This time zone adheres to Mountain Time (same as Denver, CO); one hour behind Mexico City.

The third domestic time zone begins in the northern reaches of Baja California (the northern area of the peninsula). This area adheres to Pacific Time (same as Los Angeles, CA) and is therefore one hour behind Mountain Time (e.g. Los Cabos, Mazatlan) and two.

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