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Ultimate Mexico Backpacking Travel Guide 2020

Officially called The United Mexican States, Mexico is a North American country that offers an incredible experience with endless options to its visitors. It is one of the world’s most-visited countries which understandably offers hundreds of things to see and do. From ancient ruins, vibrant cities, and gushing waterfalls to stunning colonial architecture, snow-capped mountains, and tasteful cuisine, there is truly something for every kind of visitor to Mexico.

This Mexico travel guide will introduce you to some of what this stunning country has to offer and help you fall in love with what you discover.

Mexico at a Glace

Language

Spanish

Currency

Pesos

Best Money Exchange

large bank or ATMs

Local Dishes

Chilaquiles

Drones Allowed

Yes, with restrictions

Is water safe to drink

No

Vaccinations

Check CDC

Power Plug Type

A, B

Car Sharing Options

Cabify and Uber

Peak Season

December and April

Backpacker Friendly

Yes

Hitch hiker Friendly

Yes

Credit Cards Accepted

Yes

Preferred Payment Method

Cash/Cards

Low Season

May to November

Top 5 Things to See and Do in Mexico

1. Cancun

Biggest city in Southeast Mexico, Cancun is a popular tourist destination known for its gorgeous white-sand beaches, various resorts, tasty local cuisine, and great party scene.

2. Mexico City

Mexico City is the cultural heart of the country where tourists can explore delightful colonial architecture, experience the best nightlife, and gorge on the delicious traditional dishes.

3. Guadelajara

The 2nd largest city in Mexico, Guadalajara is known for its mariachi music and tequila. It is rich in history and traditions and boasts a myriad of museums, theatres, and nightclubs and a fabulous food scene.

4. Oaxaca

One of the food capitals and cultural tourism gems of Mexico, Oaxaca City is a beautiful blend of colonial architecture with colorful traditions, impressive handicrafts, and indigenous markets.

5. Tulum

This Mexican town was once a major trade hub but is always known for its well-preserved ruins and stunning beaches

Other Things to See and Do in Mexico

1. San Miguel de Allende

A charming Mexican city that sits on a steep hillside that is definitely magical to wander around. Though there are not many attractions, you can visit the impressive art galleries, nearby hot springs, and great dining restaurants.

2. Guanajuato

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Guanajuato is a colorful city crammed with picturesque plazas and colonial architecture. What sets this city apart is the numerous mountain tunnels making intriguing shortcuts all around the city.

3. Merida

Merida is a great historic city and is chocked full of narrow streets, colonial structures, cultural markets, and stunning plazas, making it a great place to explore.

4. Puebla City

Puebla is one of the oldest cities of the country showcasing a perfect blend of culture, modernity, history, and tradition. Infinite treasures, traditional structures, and tasty gastronomy will make you wish to stay there forever.

5. Playa del Carmen

Located in the center of Riviera Maya, it is a famous beach town ideal for water activities such as diving, windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling, and jet skis.

6. Puerto Vallarta

This city sees a diverse crowd of holidaymakers visiting the trendy stores and upmarket eateries. Other than thriving nightlife, there are many activities that can keep people entertained like boat trips and horseback riding.

7. Acapulco

Nicknamed as Pearl of the Pacific, this stunning city attracts hoards of people to visit its sweeping bays, beautiful beaches, top restaurants, and high-energy nightclubs.

Typical Costs

WPCS 2.1.4

Transportation

The transportation network is great, but when distance is involved, the cost can add up. Buses are the most common way to get around in the cities and nearby towns. The buses cost about $5.00 for every hour you travel. You can also take taxis which costs almost $0.85 per kilometer in most cities. 

Accommodation

Expect to pay about $6.00/night for a dorm bed for the lowest priced hostels in Mexico. Private hostels charge $30.00 a night for their rooms. For a basic room in a 2-star hotel, expect to pay around $20.00 which doesn’t always include air conditioning. Airbnb is also a great option with most of the shared rooms starting from $10.00. You can also get an entire apartment and home starting at $35.00.

Food

Eating food from street stalls or in the market can cost around $12.00 per day or even less. If you like eating at restaurants, expect to pay almost $21.00 a day.  You can enjoy a Mexican meal at a restaurant for $5.00$7.00 and a beer can cost around $2.00 there. If you plan to cook your meals, you’ll have to pay $25.00$30.00 per week for groceries. 

Activities

The cost of activities varies depending upon the part of the country you are traveling in. Most of the sights cost on average $4.00$5.00 entrance. However, there are some parks, churches, and town squares which you can visit for free.

Suggested Budget

If you are backpacking Mexico, below you’ll get an idea of how much you need to spend daily, depending on your travel style.

Travel Style Accommodation (per night) Food (3 Meals) Transportation Activities (Per activity) Daily Cost
Backpacker
$10.00 - $15.00
$10.00 - $15.00
$5.00
$20.00
$50.00
Mid - Range
$20.00 - $40.00
$20.00
$10.00
$35.00 - $45.00
$90.00
High - End
$70.00
$50.00 - $100.00
$20.00
$100.00+
$300.00

Budgeting Tips

 

All budget travelers look for ways to cut their expenses so they can enjoy exploring more sights and indulging in exciting activities in the region. The following are some of the ways with which you can save some money on your trip to Mexico:

1. Stay Connected for Free

Avoid making long-distance calls and roaming charges when your hotel offers free WIFI service. Choose a hotel that offers this facility or you can find cafes and restaurants offering free WIFI to make calls over the internet.

2. Haggle

When you buy souvenirs from street merchants in Mexico, always haggle as they try to sell their goods at the highest prices knowing you are a tourist. Ask for a price, then either offer a lower price or ask for a discount, or thank them and leave if you don’t like the price.

3. Travel off-season

If you visit Mexico during late April or early December, you can enjoy great travel, accommodation, and food rates as this is low season.

4. Consume less alcohol

Though alcohol is cheap in Mexico, most of the bars and clubs charge an additional cost. If you are on a budget, grab a bottle of alcohol from a local store instead of drinking at a bar.

5. Eat in

If your hotel serves free breakfast, you’ll automatically save money by not having breakfast outside every morning. And if there is a kitchen in your hotel, you can buy some fruit or supplies from the nearby local market and cook food and save your money for other activities.

6. Avoid paying in US dollars

Don’t pay in US dollars and pay pesos for everything at stores and restaurants. Though many of them accept dollars, the exchange rate they use will be shockingly high.

7. Go for “Comida Corrida”

Comida Corrida is a big, hearty Mexican meal which is served between 2 PM-4 PM at various eateries. It is quite affordable and is a set menu having several courses.

Where To Stay

If you are visiting Mexico, the first problem you’ll encounter is where to stay for the best experience. Let’s take a look at some of my favorite places to stay in Mexico:

Mexico City

Mexico City Hostel

Cancun

Hostel Ka’beh

Tulum

Mama’s Home

How To Get Around

Read on this section to discover the best ways to get around Mexico with the following modes of transportation:

Car Rentals

If you are thinking of renting a car, it is a great idea. Having a car at your disposal gives you greater independence than relying on public transportation.

RideSharing

Taxis are common all over the country of which some run on a meter while for others, you should negotiate the fare in advance. But always go for the authorized taxis to avoid being scammed.

Trains

Lately, passenger train service has been discontinued in most parts of Mexico. However, you can ride Mexico’s most popular train, called El Chepe on the Copper Canyon Railway. Also, there is a train named Tequila Express that runs from Guadalajara to the small town of tequila.

Bus

If you want to travel around Mexico on budget, buses are the most efficient and affordable type of long-distance transport. There is a wide network of buses, ranging from most luxurious to retired school buses. These are the cheapest and you can travel to even distant places with extra comfort and reasonable fare.

Airlines

Air travel is the most convenient and fastest way to travel within Mexico if you want to cover long distances. There are some domestic airlines, but low-cost carriers are also becoming popular for offering good service at competitive prices.

Hitch Hiking

Though it is not recommended, hitchhiking is getting more common in Mexico due to the increased petrol prices. Mexican culture accepts hitchhiking; however, it is better to ask for the price before riding as you may be asked for the money.

Resources

When To Go

Mexico is an amazingly diversified country having a variety of climatic zones and conditions. Normally, the most popular time to visit Mexico is from December-April when there is no rain. Of course, this also makes it the busiest time to visit with the highest prices and biggest crowds. Avoid visiting from September to mid-October as it is a hurricane season and not a good time to visit the country.

How To Stay Safe and Aware of Scams

 

Like every other destination around the world, scams occur in Mexico too. Find out what to look for to avoid being targeted by them:

1. Pick pocketing

Pick pocketing is common, especially in the busy areas and metro stations. Avoid carrying expensive equipment and flashy jewelry as it might draw unwanted attention. Wear a money-belt under your clothes to carry your extra money, passport, and credit card.

2. Fake Taxis

Try using taxis that are official. Fake taxi cabs with drivers can take advantage of you and can also become a cause of express kidnapping. So, go for an authorized taxi and grab the number of the driver to remain sure that you are traveling with someone reliable.

3. Fake police

Fake police also exist in Mexico and they usually target solo travelers. So, if a police officer approaches you or asks you to go with them to the police station or anywhere else, don’t go and contact emergency services on 112.

4. Fake ATMs

While withdrawing money from an ATM in Mexico, travelers should remain cautious. There are fake ATMs on the streets fitted with a skimming device. So, only use ATMs inside the banks.

5. Restaurant Scams

Some restaurants and cafes try to swindle the travelers like giving them a different menu with more expensive items, dodging the tips, or adding on items that weren’t asked for. So, find the spots frequented by locals and double-check the receipt when you ask for the bill.

6. Travel Insurance

It is important to purchase good travel insurance as it will protect you against theft, injury, illness, and cancellations. It is overall protection in case anything goes wrong.

Packing List

 

Wondering what to take with you on your trip to Mexico? We have put together this essential packing list for your Mexico trip to make your life safer and easier. Let’s take a look:

2 Pairs of Shorts

5 shirts

8 pairs of underwear

Medicine

2 Pair of jeans

Flip flops

Toiletries

Locks

Swim Trunks

Comfortable Sneakers/Sandals

Quick dry towel

Laundry Bag

Sunhat

8 pairs of socks

Dedorant

Hand Sanitizer

Power Bank

Carry-on travel backpack

Sun Glasses

Sun Screen

Raincoats

Light clothes for Summer

Hiking Jeans

Refillable water bottle​

Sweatshirts

Universal Adapter

umbrella

Umbrella

Travel Security Belt

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