Mexico

Quick Facts

Region: South America & Central America

Population:
111,211,789

Religion:

Roman Catholics comprise about nine-tenths of the population and Protestants account for most of the remainder.

Language:

Spanish is the official language. A small percentage of the total population speaks only an Indian language; nonetheless, more than 50 Indian languages are spoken. Basic English is widely understood by most people employed in tourism, less so in the less developed areas. At the very least, shopkeepers will know the numbers for bargaining purposes.

Area (sq. km):
1,972,550 square meters

Time:

GMT - 6 ( GMT -5 from start of April to end of October)

When To Travel

Mexico's physical diversity is also expressed in its climate. Lowlands and hills below 900 m are classed as tierra caliente (hot land) and have a mean annual temperature of about 25 C. The tropical highlands lying at around 1800 m are classed as tierra templada (temperate land) and have a mean temperature of 19 C; the central plateau and the Chiapas Highlands at 2100 m, are classed as tierra fria (cold land) and have a mean temperature of 17 C. The highest peaks, above 4300 m, are classed as tierra helada (frozen land). Half of Mexico is predominantly arid and receives less than 600 mm of precipitation annually; two-fifths of its area is semiarid, and less than one-tenth is humid. Rainfall ranges from less than 250 mm in the arid north-northwest, to 1000 to 2900 mm in the coastal plains, and to more than 5000 mm in the Chiapas Highlands.

Mexico's climate has something for everyone. Generally speaking Mexico can be visited anytime of the year. The hurricane season in the Carribean lasts from June to early November. The rain in Mexico generally falls during the hottest from May to October.

Useful Travel Facts

Airports:

Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport, is located 13km (8 miles) east of Mexico City. Pre-paid taxi tickets are available from Taxi Autorizado in the Transportacion Terrestre (Ground Transportation) booth in baggage reclaim. Travellers are strongly advised to take an authorised (white and mustard with an aeroplane logo), pre-paid taxi and always lock taxi doors when inside. Taxis should cost approximately US$15. Cancún International Airport is located 22km (14 miles) southwest of Cancún. Our tours start in Playa del Carmen, to get here grab an authorized white, yellow and black airport taxi. It's a 45 minute ride to Playa del Carmen. The ride to Playa del Carmen will cost you US$58. To take one of these authorized taxis, go to any of the TTC kiosks located around the terminal and buy a ticket. The guys at the airport are happy to help you find other people heading to Playa, so you can share the fare. It usually works out to about US$15 per person.

Telephone:

The international dialling code for Mexico is +52. Telephone calls, especially international ones, can be expensive when made from a hotel. We suggest you check the price first. If you have a mobile phone it should be a relatively simple procedure to arrange ‘global roaming’ with your service provider; however, charges are generally very high so be sure to check this option thoroughly. You should also check with your service provider to see if your mobile phone is compatible with the networks used in Latin America. Most countries in the region operate on the 1900 Mhz system. Phone calls made from public telephone offices are generally your cheapest option.

Electricity:

The electrical current in México is 120 volts/60 hertz, and the electrical plugs are standard American. Adapters are almost impossible to find in México, so it is best to purchase in your country.

Food:

Real Mexican food is quite unlike the dishes found in most Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants in other countries. In tourist areas you’ll find restaurants with familiar names and ‘gringo’ menus, though the offerings will often be over-priced and not of a high standard. If you have a taste for adventure you’ll be well rewarded in Mexico; if not stick to a few simple and traditional dishes that are almost always excellent and not too spicy. You’ll find standards much higher than if you search the menus for something familiar. Mexican cuisine has some superb rich or spicy dishes, but we recommend that you take it easy for the first few days until your stomach has grown accustomed to its new environment. Here are a few of the basics, which you have probably heard of already.. Tortillas: The staple food of generations of ordinary Mexicans, tortillas can be made of flour (more common in the north) or maize (the traditional method and still the most common in the south). Often served alongside a meal as bread would be, tortillas are also used in many typical dishes –rolled and baked for enchiladas, fried for tacos or grilled for quesadillas. Frijoles (beans) They can be a main ingredient in a meal or served almost as a garnish. Guacamole: avocado mashed with onions, chilies and cilantro coriander. Served as a dip or as a garnish. Salsa: A salsa is actually just a sauce, although it is most commonly associated with the red or green mix of tomatoes, onion, chili and coriander served on your table as a relish or a dip. Beware of ‘salsa habañero’ in innocuous bottles like small jars of ketchup, and always try just a little salsa first as a precaution. Tequila: This infamous spirit is most commonly served to tourists in the form of a margarita – mixed with lime juice in salt-rimmed glasses. It is actually derived from the maguey plant – a spiky bush often seen growing in fields. Mezcal is a cruder form of Tequila traditionally served with a worm in the bottle – the worm should be eaten when the bottle is finished! Cerveza: Mexican beers are now known all over the world. Corona, Sol and Dos Equis are common brands, usually served cold and a very refreshing alternative to iced drinks. Also make sure you try.. Ceviche: Raw fish marinated in lime juice, often in a chopped salad. Chiles Renellos: Large Poblano chilies stuffed with cheese or spicy meat (picadillo). The chilies are mild, though the sauce may not be. Enchiladas Tortillas coated in a tomato and chili sauce, stuffed with vegetables, chicken or pork then folded and baked. Despite the chili content, enchiladas are often fairly mild. Quesadillas: Tortillas stuffed with cheese, folded and grilled. A simple dish often served with beans or a little salad this food is suitable for those avoiding anything spicy. Mole sauce: A wonderful rich sauce made with the unlikely combination of chocolate, chilies and many spices. It can be red or green depending on the ingredients and the moles of Puebla and Oaxaca are particularly famous, hence ‘mole poblano’ or ‘mole oaxaqeño’. The sauce is often served over chicken, though turkey is more traditional. Pollo Pibil: A Yucatecan specialty, not often found outside this region. It traditionally consists of chicken marinated in orange and spices then barbecued in banana leaves. Tamales: Cornmeal paste wrapped in corn or banana husks and often stuffed with chicken, pork or turkey and/or vegetables, then steamed. Tostadas: Thin and crisp tortillas served loaded with guacamole, sour cream, chilies, chicken etc. Tortas: Mexican sandwiches, the are often large rolls with generous fillings.

Transport:

Mexico has an excellent transportation system. Most interstate travel is in airconditioned buses and there is an extensive air network in the country. The Mexican railway system, which is nationalized, includes 17,697 km of operated railway track. The highway system includes about 329,532 km of roads, of which about 33 per cent is paved. Several highways traverse the country, including four main routes between the US border and Mexico City, which form part of the Pan-American Highway system. Air services have been intensively developed, and the country now has 50 international and 33 national airports and more than 2,400 landing fields and feeder airports. The country’s merchant fleet includes some 654 vessels with a total deadweight tonnage of 1 million.

Shopping:

Look out for the following items for souvenirs and gifts in Mexico; ceramics and locally made pottery, silverware, woven wool blankets (sarapes), brightly coloured scarves in wool or silk (rebozos), richly embroidered charro hats, straw work, blown glass, embossed leather, hard- and semi-precious stones, gold and silver jewellery, white dresses embroidered with multi-coloured flowers (huipiles), finely pleated men’s shirts in cotton voile (guayaberas), which are sold in the markets, and hammocks. The best shopping is in Mexico City, Acapulco, Campeche, Cuernavaca, Guadalajara, Mérida, Oaxaca, San Miguel de Allende and Taxco.

Visa:


Australians, Americans, Canadians, British and New Zealanders do not currently require a visa for Mexico. For all other nationalities please reconfirm your visa requirements with your travel agent.


Useful Words & Phrases

Further Reading

Mexico Handbook - J. Cummings Under the Volcanoe - M. Lowry A New Time for Mexico - C. Fuentes Lawless Roads - Graham Greene Sacred Monkey River - Christopher Shaw Many Mexicos - Lesley Byrd Simpson Distant Neighbors - Alan Riding The Power & the Glory - Graham Greene