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Information about Mexico
Mexico is located in the northern region of the American continent between the Gulf of Mexico on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west. It is bordered by the United States on the north and by Guatemala and Belize on the south. Mexico’s land area extends 1,964,375 square kilometers and is divided into six tourist regions.
Known for its extreme weather conditions and characterized by its deserts, nature reserves and rugged mountain ranges, some cities in the region are key industrial and business centers.
The Mexican heartland. Here you’ll find plenty of natural surroundings, picturesque towns full of life and color, and beautiful colonial cities, some of which have been declared World Heritage sites.
Southern Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico:
Lined by the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, this region offers an abundance of marshes, mangrove swamps and forests, all of which are ideal for ecotourism outings and exciting outdoor adventures.
The Yucatan Peninsula:
The gateway to the Mayan world. Here you can enjoy the beach resorts with their sandy white beaches and the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea and scuba dive along the world’s second largest coral reef. You can also swim in fresh water pools in submerged caverns or sinkholes, known as cenotes.
The Pacific Coast:
In this region, you’ll find cities and towns with rich cultural and culinary traditions, as well as some of the best beaches for water sports like surfing and fishing.
The Baja California Peninsula:
Territory that has been inhabited from time immemorial, in this region you can play golf on world-class courses, discover the underwater treasures of the Sea of Cortez, and witness the amazing migration of the Gray Whale.
Mexico’s 32 states are truly diverse, as each one has countless tourist destinations offering a wide array of activities.
To make your trip to Mexico as pleasant as possible, please consider the following useful information:
Average temperatures range between 25° C to 30° C (77° F to 86° F). The hottest time of the year runs from May to September (especially on the coasts), and is cooler from October to April.
More than 100 million inhabitants, with the largest populations concentrated in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey (and their surrounding areas).
Spanish, although some 66 indigenous languages, which come from pre-Hispanic cultures, are still spoken.
During the winter, the southern, eastern and some central region states are on Central Standard Time (GMT –6 hours). The northwest and Pacific coast states are on Mountain Standard Time (GMT –7 hours) and Baja California is on Pacific Standard Time (GMT –8 hours). Daylight savings time is applied during the summer.
Bills come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 pesos. Coins are issued in denominations of 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 pesos (although the latter is no longer accepted in many places). The U.S. dollar is accepted at all money exchange bureaus across the country; it’s also possible to exchange such currencies as the euro and the Canadian dollar.
When leaving the country, you must pay departure and airport taxes, which cost about US $13 and US $8.50, respectively. When purchasing your airline ticket, ask if the taxes are included. (Tax fees may vary.)
Generally, you should tip waiters, bellhops, skycaps (about US $1 per bag), tourist guides and valet parking attendants. In restaurants, leave 10% to 15% of the bill. Taxi drivers usually don’t expect tips.
To obtain information concerning cars and other items that you are allowed to bring into the country, visit the following websites: http://www.aduanas.sat.gob.mx/webadunet/aga.aspx?Q=r30 http://www.aduanas.sat.gob.mx/webadunet/aga.aspx?Q=ImpTempVehiculos_Tema1
Systems of Measurement:
Metric (for distances), Celsius (for temperatures), and the 60-cycle, 120-volt system (for electricity).
Making a Phone Call:
The country code when dialing to Mexico is 52 and the long distance code is 01. When calling the United States and Canada, you must first dial 001. To place other international calls, dial 00, followed by the country and city codes. In Mexico, you’ll find pay telephones in most cities; some are coin-operated phones and others require prepaid cards that cost 30, 50 or 100 pesos.
Mexico offers plenty of Internet cafes and public locations with connections ranging from standard dial-up to high-speed DSL.
Here are some important emergency phone numbers: 060 for police, 080 for the fire department and ambulances, 078 for highway emergencies, (55) 5250-0123 for tourist security, and (55) 5658-1111 for information service Locatel.
Visas and Passports: To apply for a visa or passport, you can visit the Mexican Embassy’s website at www.sre.gob.mx/delegaciones/dire.htm You can also visit Immigration Services at www.migracion.gob.mx/principal.asp
When greeting someone in Mexico, it’s common to shake hands with men and women that you have just met; women might also greet men or women with a kiss on the cheek.
The most important dates are: Independence Day (September 16), Easter week (from March to April), Day of the Dead (November 2) and the Virgin of Guadalupe Day (December 12).
Other Holiday Dates:
January 1, May 1 and 5, November 2 and 20, and December 25.
Mexico has an excellent highway system, airports in many major cities, and bus terminals in nearly every municipality. For local transport, most cities offer taxi and bus services. Mexico City and Leon use a so-called metrobus, an express bus line, and Mexico City and Monterrey have underground metro services.
In every state, and at every important destination, you’ll find tourist information offices and booths, as well as embassy and consulate services.
Geography and Climate:
Mexico is a large country containing almost 2 million square kilometers. The topography is very diverse, and the climate reflects this fact. At any time of the year you can find an area of Mexico with a perfect climate. Many parts of the central highlands and some coastal locations, have “perfect” weather all year round.
There are approximately four climate zones in Mexico: 1) The Baja has a climate that varies considerably from its west coast to its east coast and north to south. 2) The coastal areas get hot and humid weather in the summer and ideal weather in the winter. 3) The central highlands get ideal weather year-round. 4) The northern desert areas have very hot weather in the summer and cool nights in the winter with some snow on occasion. Details on climate can be obtained from the more specific pages in Virtual Mexico.
Mexico’s economy is driven by tourism, industrial production, oil and gas production, textiles and clothing, and agriculture. Americans visit Mexico more often than any other country in the world. Hundreds of North American factories have been built to take advantage of the lower labor costs. Mexico has 1/5 of the world’s oil reserves.
Mexico produces and exports a wide selection of agricultural goods. Just about every kind of fruit and vegetable is grown on giant modern irrigated farms and small family plots.
The population is approximately 100 million and very diverse. More than 50 distinct Indian cultures exist together with the Spanish speaking “Mestizos” (mixed Indian and European, who make up the main population). Although Spanish is the official language and is spoken by the majority, many different indigenous languages are spoken as well.
There is also a growing population of “Norte Americanos” (applied to Americans, Canadians, and Europeans), as many people decide to retire to Mexico and benefit from the lower cost of living and the wonderful climate.
Although the highway system is generally not up to American and Canadian standards, many excellent highways can be found in Mexico, and many other roads only require a little patience to take you to marvelous sights. Volcanoes, vast deserts, tropical jungles, miles of deserted beaches, ancient ruins, modern cities, quaint villages, and posh resorts, can all be found along Mexico’s roadways.
Mexico has an excellent bus system. First class buses are a preferred way to travel for many North Americans. Trains also are available, but standards vary. For many people, air travel is the way to go. There are many excellent airports in the country. All resort areas are served by airports, and many people cruise by boat to coastal destinations.
One thing that can cause problems is driving a car in Mexico without MEXICAN insurance. Don’t do it!! By Mexican law, a car accident without insurance is a felony, and unless a party to an accident can prove financial responsibility, he can, and probably will, be jailed for up to three days, until a magistrate determines who is responsible for the accident. If you have Mexican insurance, that is proof enough, and you won’t be held unless a death or serious injury occurred. You can purchase Mexican insurance easily over the Internet below.
We recommend that you not drive Mexico’s roads at night. The secondary roads can be hazardous due to poor lighting, pot holes, obstructions or livestock on the roads. Since automobile accidents can cause problems, don’t put yourself in a situation where an accident is more likely to happen. Drive carefully and obey the speed limits – even if the locals don’t – and you should have no problems driving in Mexico.
Most of the main highways are four-lane freeways now, although many of them are toll highways. These toll highways are generally safe to drive at night as they are patrolled, but cut your speed by 10-20 kph. The automotive mechanics in Mexico are legendary for their ability to repair any vehicle, at reasonable prices.
It would be difficult to name an activity that you like to do but can’t do in Mexico. In the larger cities, you can attend events such as the opera, symphony, bull fights, horse racing, dog racing, professional sports, etc. Smaller centers have folk festivals, stage plays, fiestas, flea markets, street musicians, etc. Most places have movie theaters, golf courses, and wonderful plazas where people gather in the evenings.
The coastal areas offer marvelous fishing, diving, snorkeling, and beach activities. The highlands offer hiking and the exploring of ancient ruins and colonial buildings.
Litter can be a problem in some areas of Mexico. Even if there was a will to clean it up, tax dollars are probably not available for it.
Shopping is varied and generally inexpensive. The large centers have modern shopping malls, and every settlement has many street vendors offering a wide variety of handicrafts and food.
Cost of Living:
It is difficult to maintain a cost of living database because the costs keep changing and prices vary between seasons, areas and stores. Generally, it is cheaper to live in Mexico for most lifestyles. Fresh fruit, vegetables, poultry, meat, bakery items, buses, insurance, health care, personal services, car repairs, and property taxes are all cheaper, and in some cases much cheaper in Mexico. Cosmetics, toiletries, imported foods, some clothing, and gasoline are generally more expensive. Restaurant meals can vary from much cheaper to even more expensive than in the US or Canada; it depends on where the restaurant is located and their customer base. People who live in Mexico usually find a few restaurants where they can eat very inexpensively. Housing costs and rentals can be high in some popular places. Higher than in Canada and even higher than some U.S. States. Cost are far less in towns not popular with Americans and Canadians. Items such as electronics and appliances used to be more expensive, but the price difference is diminishing now and sometimes you can buy computers as cheap as they are in the U.S. Automobiles are generally a little more expensive in Mexico.
Health and Security:
Mexico has an excellent and inexpensive health care system. Many larger centers offer first class hospitals, and a full range of health care.
Many North Americans now travel to Mexico for dental work and minor surgery, as prices are considerably lower. Pharmaceuticals are widely available and at prices much lower than the U.S. or Canada. Doctors are well trained and they even do house calls!
Health insurance is available and it is inexpensive.
Violent crime in most of Mexico is less of a problem than in the United States or Canada. Guns are not allowed. Mexican law is hard on violent criminals. You can feel much safer walking the streets in most of Mexico than in most other cities in North America. The larger cities such as Mexico City have a crime problem like any large city, and the border areas have higher crime rates. Crime is increasing in the resort cities too, and may rise to U.S. levels eventually. Most crime in Mexico is property crime.
Mexican people are generally friendly and helpful. They almost always return a greeting, and usually with a smile. Speak a little Spanish, and they will go out of their way to be helpful.
The border areas do have problems with crime, but some of the horror stories you may have heard are greatly exaggerated. Imagine the crime stories that could be told about one evening in Los Angeles. The best way to avoid crime in Mexico is to not get drunk and disorderly, and to use a little common sense about flashing money or valuables. These rules apply no matter what country you are visiting.
Corruption exists, but it is not as bad as you might think.
Corruption exists in the U.S. and Canada as well, but in different forms. Mexican government workers and police are paid very low wages, and they sometimes try to supplement their incomes by collecting “fines”. You can decide whether the “fine” is justified or not, but remember, it is a part of their way of life, and in spite of official condemnations, it is not considered a serious crime by many people. It also keeps taxes low.
Mexico offers a wide variety of excellent dining opportunities. Any type of food is available, and in the better restaurants, the food preparation, presentation and service are among the best in the world. Prices vary from ridiculously low, to as much as you would pay in a nice restaurant anywhere.
If you can speak a little Spanish, you can experience excellent values and a wide variety of cuisine. If you limit yourself to English speaking dining establishments, your choices will be more limited, and the prices will be higher generally.
Street vendors offer snacks at very low prices. Don’t be afraid to try them, but use one that the locals are using. Mexicans don’t want to eat contaminated food any more than you do. The fish tacos available on the Baja Peninsula are an excellent snack or lunch.
Avoid drinking tap water. Most restaurants use purified water in their food preparation areas, but ask if you are not sure. If you are not sure that purified water is being used, avoid salads and other raw foods. You can drink the excellent beer and wines with complete confidence. Mexico produces very good beer, brandy and tequila.
You can find a wide variety of tourist accommodations in Mexico. As with meals, if you speak a little Spanish, and check out the locally owned hotels, you can get incredible bargains. If you stay at resort hotels, you may pay prices comparable with the United States, but you may find the service is even better than at home, and you can feel comfortable speaking English.
General Information about Yucatán:
The state of Yucatan is located to the extreme north of the Yucatan Peninsula from which it takes its name, covering an area of 39, 340 square kilometers between the states of Campeche and Quintana Roo. Its terrain is basically a flat, limestone shelf with a thin layer of top soil, but this was enough for the cultivation of henequen. It was here that over 89% of this crop in Mexico was cultivated during its peak. Other argricultural products cultivated on a smaller scale are citrus, chiles, papaya, corn, sugar cane and peanuts. Across the Yucatan, you will find numerous Mayan archaeological sites. The most important sea port is Progreso.
Yucatan has over 1,658,210 inhabitants in 106 municipalities and 3,363 villages. Its capital is Merida.
The climate of Yucatan is hot and humid. It has a long rainy season that lasts from May to October, however it is rare to see rain during the dry months of February through April. The hottest months are April and May, climbing to temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius or more. The average annual temperature is 25.7 degrees with breezes from the southeast and northeast. Generally, it is warmer in May and cooler in January. The months with the most rain are June and July. The driest months are December and January.
Merida is the beautiful state capital of Yucatan. Founded in 1542, it exhibits an exquisite union of indigenous and European architectural elements. During the colonial period, the city became the most important in the area and today it is a delight to visit the living monuments like the Montejo House, the Governor’s Palace and the administration building of the Autonomous University of Yucatan (UADY). On Merida’s main avenue, the tree-lined Paseo de Montejo, there is much to do: visit the majestic Canton Palace, the Monument of the Flag, a semicircle of carved stone, or simply relax in the shade of a lush laurel tree. Museums, theaters, artisans, night spots, parks and a delicious culinary tradition are waiting for you here.
Places of Interest:
• Ecological Reserves
• Archaeological Zones
• Haciendas and Convents
• Customs and Traditions in the Main Plaza
• Cuisine in the best restaurants
• Hospitable service throughout the city
Yucatan State occupies the northern part of the peninsula on which is has been developed over the past 5,000 years, beginning with the genius and tragedy of the Maya, whose secrets still remain a mystery. A journey outside Merida will give you an opportunity to explore some of the great ceremonial centers of their culture, as well as the legacy of the Spanish colonization. On this flat landscape, hot and humid, the bright colors of the villages and of the people only adds to the amazement of their archaeological achievements.
To the south of the state, on a path towards the Mexican Caribbean, is the beautiful colonial city of Valladolid. Founded over 450 years ago, this city is the oldest in Yucatan, after Merida. Here you can admire the impressive colonial structures, like the ex-convent of San Bernardino de Sienna, the cathedral of San Servacio, the San Roque Museum and the neighborhoods of Candelaria and Santa Ana, among others.
The AMPS network is provided by IUSACELL and they are now introducing the GSM 1900 system. The main provider of wireless services is Telcel (www.telcel.com). It is possible to rent wireless telephones. For Internet, the main service providers are DSICom (www.dsi.com.mx) and Internet Mexico (www.internet.com.mx). There are also cyber cafes almost everywhere in the cities.
The most read local newspapers are: El Diario de Yucatan, El Mundo al Dia and El Periodico Por Esto. National newspapers are also available here.
Life in Yucatan is very relaxed, however, it is still a good idea to keep important documents and valuables locked in your hotel safe.