Mexico Vacations: 10 Things to Know Before You Take Off

More Americans visit Mexico more than any other international destination, and Canadians are not far behind. It’s no surprise seeing as this country boasts sunny skies, clear warm waters, beautiful weather and a slew of resorts and activities to choose from. In order to make your trip to Mexico a little more enjoyable, there are a few things you should know before taking off. Here are 10 of our best suggestions on how to make the most out of your vacation to the beautiful country of Mexico.

10. Tequila is NOT the only Drink of Choice

We get it, when you travel to Mexico you are going to drink Tequila, and probably a lot of it. But that is not the only choice in this awesome country. Before the fire of tequila there was another beverage fermented from agave nectar: pulque. This ancient liquor has been making a comeback in recent years and those familiar with the drink tell you that it won’t get you intoxicated, well not exactly. While you can sit there and drink pulque for hours, chances are your legs won’t want to work when you get up, but your mind will be clear. Mezcal is another alternative to tequila, a cousin to the popular drink and is meant to be sipped, straight up. Acolytes claim that is a much purer tipple than tequila and that it never betrays you with a hangover, however its up to you to test that theory.

9. You Have to Pay to Leave

The Mexico departure tax is overwhelmingly complicated, thanks to a lack of information available regarding it. Our best advice, make sure you keep at least 900 Mexican Pesos on hand when you arrive at the airport. Depending on whether you drive or fly in, depends on who asks for your money. Some airlines include the departure tax in their ticket price, some don’t. It is possible to go to any bank before you depart and pay the tax, just show them your tourist card, essentially a visa that allowed you into the country and they will give you a receipt to show the border officials when you leave. Yes, you have to pay to leave, or as others would say, you have to pay to get in. Either way, keep 900 Pesos handy and you’ll be just fine.

8. Don’t Drink the Water

As a general rule, stay away from all tap water in Mexico. It’s pretty simple actually considering locals themselves find the idea of drinking the tap water repulsive. The water is indeed purified at the source but it’s the distribution system that allows the water to be contaminated en route to the tap. Most Mexicans buy water in five gallon jugs called garrafones which are delivered to their homes and recycled. If you are staying at a hotel they should be providing bottled water or large jugs of purified water for you to refill your bottle. This goes for brushing your teeth as well, make sure you are using the purified water. And don’t forget about the ice cubes that are put into your drink at the restaurants, we suggest asking for any drink “without ice” or inquiring if the cubes are made from tap water or purified water.

7. Learn some Española

It is always a good idea to learn the local language when you travel, always. It is no different when you are traveling to Mexico, especially if you are planning on traveling around the country. With the availability of free language programs available, there is no real excuse for not knowing simple phrases. A couple key phrases include dónde está el baño (where is the bathroom), una cerveza porfavor (one beer please), and gracias (thank you). Make sure you have google translate enabled on your phone or have a phrase book handy in order to connect with the locals. Before you know it you will be speaking Spanish to everyone you come across.

6. There is More to Mexico Than the Drug Cartel, But it is Still Dangerous

Like the title suggests, this country is not all drug cartels and smuggling operations. But there are drug groups openly battling law enforcements as well as each other in certain parts of Mexico. And the number of tourists murdered here has risen in the past few years. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay away from this country all together, traveling here can be safe. It is recommended to read travel advisories before booking a trip here, as there are some undesirable states, especially near the U.S border. The good news is that the most popular tourist spots are deemed safe to visit. If there is one piece of advice to take with you when you travel to this country, it is to know what car you are getting into, and only get into registered taxis. Use common sense and stay in the safe tourist areas, don’t withdraw large amounts of money from the ATM and don’t wear a ton of jewelry if you are off of a resort.

5. Mexico is a Nature Lover’s Paradise

From the deserts of the north to the tropical forests of the Pacific to the feeding ground of the Sea or Cortez to the pine forests in the Mexican Central Plateau, this is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. Mexico is home to the second highest number of mammal species, more than a thousand species of birds and more reptile species than any other country. You know what this means? Visitors should expect to be blown away by nature here. The eastern perimeter of Michoacán state is home to 30 billion butterflies, the winter home of the Monarch butterflies. The mystical state of Chiapas is overflowing with brilliant shades of green and vertical jaw-dropping cliffs. The Caribbean coastline of the Yucatan is home to the 2nd largest barrier reef, littered with manatees, whale sharks and turtles. Copper Canyon, four times the size of the Grand Canyon stands in the heart of the Sierra Madre and offers breathtaking views and incredible adventure opportunities.

4. Buses are Safe…and Cheap

If you are planning on making your way around different parts of the country, we suggest hoping on a bus. Not only are they safe and cheap but they generally run on time. Hop on one of the executive or first class busses for a great experience that includes air condition, reclining seats and movies. These generally run on express routes and can take you from Cancun to Chichen Itza for under $20. Second class buses normally make more stops, perfect for those who are looking to make local stops. Buses here are a great way to avoid the touristy tours and sightsee independently.

3. Mexico is Loaded with UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Mexico has 28 cultural sites, 5 natural sites and one mixed site of UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites, more than any other country in the America’s. Chichen Itza is perhaps the most well-known of these sites and no one will argue that these ancient ruins are awe-inspiring, but there are so many more sites to discover in this country. The historic centre of Mexico City and Xochimilco is home to five Aztec temples, the largest cathedral on the continent and floating gardens. The islands in the Gulf of California are loaded with high cliffs, sandy beaches and brilliant turquoise waters. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is located on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and is home to tropical forests, mangroves and marshes, along with a large marine section, and is home to over 300 species of birds. The Monarch Butterfly Reserve is where the billions of butterflies call home in the wintertime and is located 100km northwest of Mexico City. There is so many natural wonders, ancient ruins and historic cities that deserve a visit when you are here.

2. Two Words: Linen and Cotton

It is HOT here. All the time. No matter when you come. Remember this. The humid climate and climbing temperatures are especially uncomfortable in the summer months. How you will stay cool in this country is by wearing natural fabrics such as linen and cotton, or your bathing suit- although we don’t suggest leaving the resort in just a swimsuit. Many locals will wear long pants made out of linen as it allows the body to breathe. Stay away from polyester. You can thank us later.

1. Mexico is a Foodie Lover’s Dream

We understand that everyone thinks Mexico and immediately thinks tacos, but come on people, that is clearly not the only food in this country! Mexican cuisine is indeed so good that UNESCO has put it on the cultural heritage list. Make sure to visit the stalls in the markets where you will find succulent dishes at ever turn, think meat with purple corn topped with avocado ice cream. It is a must to try mole when you visit Mexico and enjoy the rainbow sauce of bitter chocolate and spice that often accompanies it. Each region in this country is known for it’s own local specialties. In the Yucatan make sure you try the slow roasted pork with bitter orange marinade and lime soup, also called the cochinita pibil. And for dessert, one word- churro- a fried dough covered in sugar and cinnamon, found all over the country.

 

 

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Mexico introduces bill to to legalise medical and recreational cannabis use

It is a controversial proposal in a country fighting a drug war

Kristin Hugo New York

A Mexico senator has introduced a bill that would legalise recreational marijuana.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador is the president-elect of Mexico, and his soon-to-be interior interior minister Olga Sanchez Cordero proposed a bill to legalise marijuana.

If it passes, each person will be allowed to have up to 20 plants at a time for personal consumption. The bill would also include regulating and monitoring production, sales, and consumption.

In five separate court cases, Mexico’s supreme court has ruled in favour of private citizens suing for their rights to consume recreational marijuana. If this law passes, it would no longer require a lawsuit for each citizen to smoke.

Individuals can also partake in public places and produce no more than 480 grams per year if the law passes.

Ms Obrador also suggested negotiating peace and amnesty for some involved in the drug trade who security forces are currently targeting, Reuters reports.

Mexico famously struggles with the violence of drug cartels, and the government has been viciously fighting a “war on drugs” since 2006. Thousands have died in the drug war. Former Mexican president Michael Vincente Fox has argued that legalisation would reduce profits for dangerous Mexican cartels, and in turn, would reduce drug-related violence.

Globally, laws regarding marijuana are slowly relaxing. The only other countries that have formally legalised cannabis are Uruguay and, as of June, Canada. Slowly, US states are legalising medical or recreational marijuana as well.

The recent midterm election involved several marijuana-related propositions, as long as sales are still regulated and documented. North Dakota’s proposition failed, but Missouri and Utah voted to allow medical marijuana. Michigan voted to allow it recreationally as well.

MEXICAN CRIME WAVE Is it safe to travel to Cancun Playa del Carmen resort in Mexico issued with a US State Department warning after murder spree

Escalating drug cartel violence has rocked the popular Mexican holiday hotspot of Cancun

By Jon Lockett

ESCALATING drugs cartel violence rocked the Mexican holiday hotspot of Cancun after nine people were murdered in a 36-hour period in April 2018.

More than 100 people have now been killed in the popular beach resort since the start of 2018. Here’s what you need to know before you pack your bags for a holiday there…

Is it safe to travel to Cancun and other tourist spots in Mexico?

Drug-related violence in Mexico has increased massively in recent years with murders now commonplace.

Morgues even closed down in the Mexican state of Guerrero after they were inundated with gangland victims.

Many fatalities are those killed in turf wars between the different gangs competing for trafficking routes into the US.

Cops are trying to protect tourist destinations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and Nuevo Vallarta.

However, in the first three months of 2018 more than 100 people were killed in Cancun alone.

In one 36-hour spell in April 2018 NINE PEOPLE were murdered.

On April 21, gunmen on water scooters shot at a beach vendor in Cancun’s hotel zone, though nobody was hurt.

The following month a beach vendor was killed in a double shooting on a Cancun beach by a gang on a speedboat.

And in August, eight bodies were found after a cartel murder spree – with two of the victims dismembered and found in separate plastic bags.

US authorities issued a “Level 2” advisory warning to travellers to “exercise increased caution”, adding “violent crime such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery is widespread”.

A State Department spokesman said: “While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal organisation assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Shooting incidents injuring or killing bystanders have occurred.”

Current Foreign Office advice says visitors should follow local advice and be vigilant, and tourists should take particular care not to be caught up in violence between criminal groups.

 

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What can I do to stop falling a victim to crime?

The chances of a tourist being murdered are still very slim as most killings are gang related.

However, crime and violence are serious problems in Mexico and the security situation can still pose a risk for foreigners.

You should research your destination thoroughly and only travel during daylight hours when possible.

Monitor local media and inform trusted contacts of your travel plans, advises the UK Foreign Office.

When driving, avoid isolated roads and use toll roads (cuotas) whenever possible.

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How can I beat the pickpockets?

Street crime is a serious problem in major cities and tourist resort areas.

Pick-pocketing is common on the Mexico City Metro and other tourist hotspots.

Dress down and avoid wearing expensive jewellery or watches and limit the amount of cash you carry with you.

Keep a close watch on briefcases and luggage, even in apparently secure places like the lobby of your hotel.

Take care when withdrawing money from ATMs or exchanging money at Bureau de Change.

Be wary of people presenting themselves as police officers trying to fine or arrest you for no apparent reason.

If in doubt, ask for identification and if possible note the officer’s name, badge number and patrol car number.

21 Things Not to Do in Mexico

Most travel guides will give you lists of things to do in a destination, but often the “what not to dos” are just as important considerations. Whether you are going to a Baja beach, a Yucatan resort, a small mountain village, or a big city south of the border, there are certain things to keep in mind when visiting this great country. We would hate for you to commit a social faux pas or put yourself in grave danger, so here’s our list of 21 things NOT to do in Mexico to ensure you have the safest, most memorable trip ever.

1. Don’t Hitch a Ride in a Libre Taxi

Taxis are extremely popular amongst tourists, but when it comes to getting around Mexico, you’ll definitely want to avoid this mode of transportation. Many taxi companies are unlicensed, resulting in their drivers being unmonitored and unsupervised. Before hopping into the back of any ol’ vehicle and potentially putting your life in danger, make sure the taxi has clear and proper signage. Your hotel should also be able to vouch for which companies are legit. And as a bonus tip: negotiate your fare before getting into the cab.

2. Don’t Flaunt Your Valuables

This one is a no-brainer, but we thought we’d add it as a friendly reminder just in case you’re planning on packing all of your fancy duds for your Mexican vacay. Walking around with blinging jewelry, an expensive camera dangling from around your neck, and an expensive handbag hanging from your shoulder will make you an easy target for thieves. To play it safe, try to blend in with the locals by taking a less-is-more approach when it comes to your clothing and accessories.

3. Don’t End Your Night Without Going to Dietrich Roma

Taking inspiration from German actress Marlene Dietrich, Dietrich Roma in Mexico City is a mansion-turned-cocktail bar where the who’s who of the city convene. After a day of exploring and enjoying some of the country’s finest cuisine, Dietrich Roma is the perfect place to get a nightcap, from their fruity Lily Tequila or their rum-filled Man by the Roadside. And don’t forget to take a picture in their on-site photo booth before heading out!

4. Don’t Over-Plan

Leave some room for serendipity and spontaneity. That is when the magic of travel happens, not on a pre-scheduled tour bus or around the hotel pool. Get out there and explore Mexico a little. You never know when you’re going to find a cozy cafe, stumble upon a street performance or get swept up in a zocalo fiesta.

5. Don’t Use the Metro System During Rush Hour

When hora pico (rush hour) comes around, the streets and highways of the major cities in Mexico turn into parking lots. During the peak hours of 7-10 a.m. and 5-8 p.m., you’ll want to refrain from using the metro system – that is unless you don’t mind getting stuck in traffic and being crammed inside a packed bus.

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Announcing Student Health Advantage and Patriot Exchange Plans

International Medical Group® (IMG®) is updating our most popular international medical insurance products for the educational market: Patriot Exchange Program (PEP) and Student Health Advantage (SHA).
These plans are designed for students, scholars and educators participating in international educational programs and cultural exchanges, including J1 and J2 U.S. visa programs.
As medical costs continue to rise, individuals and groups involved in the educational market are facing increased health care costs each year. To ensure long-term rate stabilization, while providing one-of-a kind international medical insurance coverage, IMG is making the following changes to these plans, effective June 1, 2016:

  • SHA Standard plan: Removing the Maternity and Newborn Wellness benefits, resulting in a 4% decrease in rates, to allow you to market and sell the plan more affordably.
  • SHA Platinum plan: Changing the Maternity Coinsurance to 100% coverage outside of the U.S., 80% in the U.S. PPO network, and 60% in the U.S. out-of-PPO network, to keep the plan rates unchanged.
  • PEP and SHA group plans: Changing the group plan size to five or more insureds to administer these group plans more effectively.
    We’re confident these changes will provide your clients greater price stability, while continuing to offer Global Peace of Mind® while they are away from home. Click below to access the updated brochures:

Read More Here and Get a quote

Health Insurance for Travel to Mexico

Issues with Mexican Health Care

If you travel to Mexico without health insurance coverage and you need medical treatment, you might be required to pay for the services up front. You will be asked to show proof of insurance and give the facility a credit card number before you are seen. The US State Department indicates that there have been numerous complaints from US citizens regarding inflated medical charges at health-care facilities in beach resort areas. You can avoid this problem by having health insurance that is valid for the duration of your travel in Mexico.

Your US Health Insurance and Coverage in Mexico

Your current health insurance company might offer coverage for travel to Mexico, but that doesn’t mean that you will have an easy time invoking the coverage. In many cases you will have to pay the costs up front and wait to be reimbursed. You might be covered only for a limited number of days instead of your entire trip, and also might be limited to a few clinics or facilities in the entire country. Contact your health insurance provider to understand the limits of any coverage that you do have while in Mexico. If the coverage is not sufficient, you can supplement it with a travel health insurance policy.

What to Look for in a Policy

If you have decided to purchase a travel health insurance policy for Mexico, make sure that the company has the infrastructure in place to provide you with the services you will need. For example, the company should have a toll-free number that connects you to English-speaking operators 24 hours a day. The company should help you find English-speaking medical providers near you and should be able to help coordinate any care that you need.

Considerations

When shopping for your health insurance plan for Mexico, consider including a rider for emergency medical evacuation. Should you become severely ill or injured, this coverage would pay to have you flown home or driven by ambulance to continue receiving care in America. Also note that some health insurance policies will not cover you if you engage in high-risk activities like bungee jumping or if you are injured while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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