After traveling all over Mexico and living in a few different places I learned quite a lot along the way. Some of these tips are common sense and others are things you would never think of coming from the USA. The media sells Mexico as a cartel ridden danger zone but the reality is, it’s very safe. It’s more a “show” of force rather than a real gun battle in the streets. Being in some of the most “dangerous” parts of Mexico I really never had a single problem. Actually the opposite, shady looking guys on the side of the highway outside Matamoros gave me a huge container of chicken and a large cola.
My Tips for Traveling in Mexico:
1) Never carry a lot of money in your wallet. If you do happen to get robbed or need to bribe an officer you don’t want them to know how much money you really have. Look like the stupid tourist, pull out your near empty wallet with a few hundred pesos and let them snatch what you have. Keep your valuable cards and cash tucked away in a safe place or another pocket.
2) Never use your phone in a public area without being aware of your surroundings. Losing your phone isn’t the end of the world but it can wreck a good vacation losing all your travel info and GPS. If you are using your phone out in public not paying attention it’s easy for anyone to run by and snatch it.
3) Always make eye contact and greet people that pass you within 2 arms length. It’s very common to greet everyone here and making eye contact and a greeting helps thwart any could be robbery. Most times they light up with a smile and reply with a hardy BUEN DIA!
4) Never walk behind or near a sleeping street dog. The dogs in Mexico have a culture of their own. They travel and eat on their own schedule and often times offer a friendly face. Sometimes they’ll follow you to OXXO in hopes of a treat. They meet up on street corners at random times of the day. I have seen 10-15 randomly on one corner just sniffing and wagging tails. Never seen a dog fight. However, there are exceptions. Always be ready and I do not recommend wearing flip flops for this reason. I have had to use my foot as a weapon and shield a couple times. One, a crazy dog got lose. Second time, I was actually thinking about writing this article and thought this was a good tip. On that same walk home I did exactly that while lost in thought. Two dogs jumped up and starting coming at me. Normally they are friendly but I startled them real bad. Hence this rule!
5) Don’t be afraid to be yourself and practice your crappy Spanish skills. Most people here are genuinely friendly and welcoming. They are glad to help and usually don’t expect much if anything in return. The people here have a general curiosity about your story and enjoy good conversation. Instead of hitting up the hostels and Dominoes; venture out and meet some locals and try the local foods. It’s all good!
6) Take advantage of quality bus transportation. ADO and other bus companies offer great travel prices to go anywhere in Mexico. No ID, no passports, nothing is required and it’s very cheap! You stop in random places and people will get on and offer snacks and drink from the jungle. You can take full advantage of your trip to Mexico by using these buses to get around anywhere rather quickly and affordably.
7) Haggling is a key skill when purchasing tourist packages or boat tours or anything like this. You can usually get away with 75%-90% off the price but don’t over due it. These people are hard working and make great products. Tours are authentic and fun. I purchased a hammock several months ago that was hand made and very nice quality. I ended up paying full price but didn’t mind because of the quality and I knew it was hand made. I sleep in it every night and foresee myself having it for a long time. Haggle firmly but be fair! You’re dollar goes a lot farther here and they are much more hard working and humble; don’t be afraid to support them or be the stupid gringo over paying. It’s okay. 🙂
Mexico itself offers a wide variety of amazing destinations from jungle ruins to beaches. Bacalar is another hidden gem located in Mexico. Words do no justice to the beauty Mexico can offer as well as the opportunity to have a lot of fun and grow as a person. The people of Latin America are amazing!