Mexico

 Mayan Pyramids  Sombreros

Why Mexico?                                                                   Click here to view video

Spicy as salsa roja, intoxicating as a shot of tequila, volatile as the volcanoes of the central sierra, surreal as a Frida Kahlo canvas, monumental as the pyramids of Teotihuacán and warm as its inhabitants, Mexico fills the senses, tweaks the intellect and nourishes the soul.  The phrase 'something for everyone' comes to mind: for nature enthusiasts, whale watching, monarch butterfly migrations, coral reefs off the Yucatan coast and the world's stoutest tree (at Tule, Oaxaca); for hedonists, ecstatic nights spent dancing on the beaches of Cancun; for archaeology buffs, hundreds of painstakingly preserved remnants of ancient civilisations; for gourmands, a tantalisingly varied cuisine, from toothsome tacos to magnificent moles; for art lovers, miles of murals; for shopaholics, weavings, silverwork and fantastic animal figurines; and for beach bums, 10,000 kilometers of coastline, hammocks included.  Marvelling at a 1300-year-old Maya palace at Palenque as parrots screech and howler monkeys growl in the sweaty emerald jungle around you. This is Mexico. Sliding from a palm-fringed sandy beach into the warm, turquoise waves of the Pacific at Puerto Vallarta. This, too, is Mexico. Dining on salmon enchiladas and chrysanthemum salad at a Mexico City fusion restaurant, dancing through the night at a high-energy Guadalajara nightclub, kayaking at dawn past a colony of Baja California sea lions – all these are unique Mexican experiences. Every visitor goes home with their own unforgettable images. Such a large country, straddling temperate and tropical zones, reaching 5km into the sky and stretching 10,000km along its coasts, with a city of 19 million people at its center and countless tiny pueblos everywhere, can hardly fail to provide a huge variety of options for human adventure.
 
Mexico is what you make of it. Its multi-billion-dollar tourism industry is adept at satisfying those who like their travel easy. But adventure is what you’ll undoubtedly have if you take a just a few steps off the pre-packaged path. Activity-based tourism, community tourism and genuine ecotourism – the type that actually helps conserve local environments – are developing fast in rural areas. The opportunities for getting out to Mexico’s spectacular wild places and interacting with local communities are greater than ever – from world-class canyoneering near Monterrey or cooking lessons in the Veracruz countryside to hiking the Oaxaca cloud forests and snorkeling the coral reefs of the Yucatán.  Planning your first trip to Mexico? Be ready for more crowds, noise, bustle and poverty than you're accustomed to, especially if it's your first trip outside the developed world. But don't worry – most Mexicans will be only too happy to help you feel at home in their country. Invest a little time before your trip in learning even just a few phrases of Spanish – every word you know will make your trip that little bit easier and more enjoyable.

  • When should I travel?
No time is a bad time to visit Mexico, though the coastal and low-lying regions, especially in the southern half of the country, are fairly hot and humid from May to September (these are the months of highest rainfall and highest temperatures almost everywhere). The interior of the country has a more temperate climate than the coasts. In fact, it’s sometimes decidedly chilly in the north and the center from November to February.  July and August are peak holiday months for both Mexicans and foreigners. Other big holiday seasons are mid-December to early January (for foreigners and Mexicans) and a week either side of Easter (for Mexicans). At these times the coastal resorts attract big tourist crowds, room prices go up in popular places, and accommodations and public transportation can be heavily booked, so advance reservations are advisable.

  • Is it safe to travel and are there places to avoid?
Despite often alarming media reports and official warnings, Mexico is generally a safe place to travel, and with just a few precautions you can minimize the risk of encountering problems.  Some cities, such as Mexico City, Acapulco, Monterrey and several places along the US border (such as Nuevo Laredo, Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez), have a crime problem, but tourists are rarely involved in the drug ¬≠trade–related violence that brings such a lot of bad publicity.  Enjoy yourself along the coasts, but beware of undertows and riptides on any ocean beach, and don’t leave your belongings unattended on the beach while you swim. Run-and-grab thefts happen.  And everyone should be extremely careful with taxis in Mexico City.

  • What money should I take?
The currency is the Mexican Peso (MXN). MasterCard, Visa and American Express cards are generally accepted by businesses catering to tourists, such as car rental agencies, airlines, some bus lines and higher-end hotels, shops and restaurants. (Credit companies add a surcharge of around 5% for foreign transactions.) At humbler establishments you'll need pesos to make purchases.  ATMs on the Cirrus and Plus networks are easily found in cities and towns throughout Mexico, dispensing pesos for holders of both debit and credit cards.  ATMs and credit cards mean traveller's cheques are less necessary as a means of carrying money than they used to be and not necessarily recommended. However, traveller's cheques issued by well-known brands can be cashed in exchange houses. Traveller's cheques in Pounds Sterling and Euros are now as readily accepted as those in US Dollars.

  • What language will they understand?
Spanish is the official language (spoken by more than 90%). English is widely spoken. 8% speak indigenous languages, of which Nátinate is most common.

  • How about my health?
There are a number of first-rate hospitals in Mexico City. In general, private facilities offer better care, though at greater cost, than public hospitals.  Adequate medical care is available in other major cities, but facilities in rural areas may be limited.

  • Public Holidays

2012

January 01 New Year's Day
February 06 Constitution Day
March 19 Birthday of Benito Juárez
April 05 *Maundy Thursday
April 06 *Good Friday
May 01 Labour Day
May 05 *Anniversary of Battle of Puebla
September 16 Independence Day
October 12 *Día de la Raza (Columbus Day)
November 02 *Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
November 20 Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution of 1910
December 12 *Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 25 Christmas Day

2013
January 01 New Year's Day
February 04 Constitution Day
March 18 Birthday of Benito Juárez
March 28 Maundy Thursday
March 29 Good Friday
May 01 Labour Day
May 05 Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla
September 16 Independence Day
October 12 Día de la Raza
November 02 Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
November 18 Revolution Day
December 12 Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 25 Christmas Day

  • Do I need a visa?
Visas are required for all South African passport holders travelling to Mexico.

  • Will I need any innoculations before I depart?
Yellow Fever vaccinations are required if coming from an infected area.