Cabo San Lucas
Riviera Maya
Puerto Vallarta







There's a 15% IVA (value-added) tax on goods and services in most of Mexico, and it's supposed to be included in the posted price. This tax is 10% in Cancun, Cozumel, and Los Cabos. There is an exit tax of around $17.25 imposed on every foreigner leaving the country, usually included in the price of airline tickets.

Telephone & Fax

Telephone area codes are gradually being changed all over the country. The change may affect the area code and first digit or only the area code. Some cities are even adding exchanges and changing whole numbers. Courtesy messages telling you that the number you dialed have been changed do not exist. You can call operator assistance for difficult-to-reach numbers. Many fax numbers are also regular telephone numbers; you have to ask whoever answers your call for the fax tone ("tono de fax, por favor").

The country code for Mexico is 52.

Time Zone

Central Standard Time prevails throughout most of Mexico. The west-coast states of Sonora, Sinaloa, and parts of Nayarit are on Mountain Standard Time. The state of Baja California Norte is on Pacific Time, but Baja California Sur is on Mountain Time. Mexico observes daylight saving time.


Most service employees in Mexico count on tips for the majority of their income--especially true for bellboys and waiters. Bellboys should receive the equivalent of $.50 to $1 US per bag; waiters generally receive 10% to 20% depending on the level of service. In Mexico, it is not customary to tip taxi drivers, unless they are hired by the hour, or provide touring or other special services.


Most hotels have decanters or bottles of purified water in the rooms, and the better hotels have either purified water from regular taps or special taps marked agua purificada. Some hotels will charge for in-room bottled water. Virtually any hotel, restaurant, or bar will bring you purified water if you specifically request it, but you'll usually be charged for it. Bottled purified water is sold widely at drugstores and grocery stores (look for TK brands). Some popular brands are Santa Maria, Ciel, Agua Pura and Pureza. Evian and Bonefit are widely available.


The electrical system in Mexico is 110 volts AC (60 cycles), as in the United States and Canada. However, in reality it may cycle more slowly and overheat your appliances. To compensate, select a medium or low speed for hair dryers. Many older hotels still have electrical outlets for flat two-prong plugs; you'll need an adapter for using any modern electrical apparatus that has an enlarged end on one prong or that has three prongs. Many first-class and deluxe hotels have the three-holed outlets. Those that don't may have loan adapters, but to be sure, it's always better to carry your own.


Postage for a postcard or letter is 42¢; it may arrive anywhere between one to six weeks later. A registered letter costs $1.20. To send a package can be quite expensive--the Mexican Postal service charges $7.00 per kilo (or 2.20 lbs.) and unreliable; it takes between two and six weeks, if indeed it arrives at all, packages are frequently lost within the Mexican postal system, although the situation has improved in recent years. The recommended way to send a package or important mail continues to be through Federal Express, DHL, UPS, or any other reputable international mail service.


Taking a pet into Mexico is easy, but it requires a little preplanning. For travelers coming from the United States and Canada, your pet needs to be checked for health within 30 days of before arrival into Mexico. Most veterinarians in major cities have the appropriate paperwork--an official health certificate, to be presented to Mexican Customs officials, which they will give you at the time of their check up and which ensures the pet is up-to-date on its vaccinations. When you and your pet return from Mexico, the same type of paperwork will be required by U.S. Customs officials. If your stay extends beyond the 30-day time frame of your U.S. issued certificate, you'll need to get an updated Certificate of Health issued by a veterinarian in Mexico that also states the condition of your pet, and the status of its vaccinations. To be certain of any last-minute changes in requirements, consult the Mexican Government Tourist Office nearest you.

Business Hours

In general, businesses in larger cities are open between 9am and 7pm; in smaller towns many close between 2 and 4pm. Most are closed on Sunday. Bank hours are Monday through Friday from 9 or 9:30am to 5 or 6pm. Increasingly, banks are offering Saturday hours for at least a half-day.

Cameras & Film

Film costs about the same as in the United States. Tourists wishing to use a video or still camera at any archaeological site in Mexico and at many museums operated by the Instituto de Antropología e Historia (INAH) will be required to pay $4 per video camera and / or still camera in their possession at each site or museum visited. Such fees are noted in the listings for specific sites and museums. Also, use of a tripod at any archaeological site in Mexico requires a permit from INAH. It's courteous to ask permission before photographing anyone. In some areas, such as around San Cristóbal de Las Casas, there are other restrictions on photographing people and villages. Such restrictions are noted in specific cities, towns, and sites.

Doctors / Dentists

Every embassy and consulate is prepared to recommend local doctors and dentists with good training and modern equipment; some of the doctors and dentists even speak English. See the list of embassies and consulates under "Embassies/Consulates," below. Hotels with a large foreign clientele are often prepared to recommend English-speaking doctors. Almost all first-class hotels in Mexico have a doctor on call.

Drug Laws

To be blunt, don't use or possess illegal drugs in Mexico. Mexican officials have no tolerance for drug users, and jail is their solution, with very little hope of getting out until the sentence (usually a long one) is completed or heavy fines or bribes are paid. Remember, in Mexico the legal system assumes you are guilty until proven innocent. (Important note: It isn't uncommon to be befriended by a fellow user, only to be turned in by that "friend," who's collected a bounty for turning you in.) Bring prescription drugs in their original containers. If possible, pack a copy of the original prescription with the generic name of the drug.

U.S. Customs officials are also on the lookout for diet drugs sold in Mexico, but illegal in the U.S., possession of which could also land you in a U.S. jail because they are illegal here. If you buy antibiotics over the counter (which you can do in Mexico) say, for a sinus infection--and still have some left, you probably won't be hassled by U.S. Customs.

Newspapers & Magazines

Two English-language newspapers, the News and the Mexico City Times, are published in Mexico City, distributed nationally, and carry world news and commentaries, plus a calendar of the day's events, including concerts, art shows, and plays. Newspaper kiosks in larger Mexican cities will carry a selection of English-language magazines.


Farmacias will sell you just about anything you want, with a prescription or without one. Most pharmacies are open Monday through Saturday from 8am to 8pm. There are generally one or two 24-hour pharmacies now located in the major resort areas. Pharmacies take turns staying open during off-hours, so if you are in a smaller town and need to buy medicines after normal hours, ask for the farmacia de turno.


In Mexico City, police are to be suspected as frequently as they are to be trusted; however, you'll find many that are quite honest and helpful. In the rest of the country, especially in the tourist areas, the majority is very protective of international visitors. Several cities, including Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Acapulco, have gone as far as to set up a special corps of English-speaking Tourist Police to assist with directions, guidance, and more.

Internet Access

In large cities and resort areas a growing number of 5-star hotels offer business centers with Internet access. You'll also find cyber-cafes in destinations that are popular with business travelers. But in more remote spots, it can be almost impossible to get online. Note that many ISPs will automatically cut off your Internet connection after a specified period of time (say, 10 minutes), because telephone lines are at a premium. Some Telmex offices also have free access Internet kiosks in their reception areas.

Liquor Laws

The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18, however it is extremely rare that anyone will be asked for ID or denied purchase (often, children are sent to the stores to buy beer for their parents). Grocery stores sell everything from beer and wine to national and imported liquors. You can buy liquor 24 hours a day; but during major elections, dry laws often are enacted for as much as 72 hours in advance of the election--and those laws apply to foreign tourists as well as local residents. Mexico also does not have any 'open container' laws for transporting liquor in cars, but authorities are beginning to target drunk drivers more aggressively. It's a good idea to drive defensively.





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