Blog Archives

My Top Tips for Travelers to Mexico

Mexico is one of my favorite countries to travel in, and not just because I live here, but because of its incredibly diverse landscapes, friendly people, excellent food, and low prices—especially for those with U.S. dollars, for which the exchange rate is quite good at the moment.

You can plan any type of trip in Mexico: budget backpacking or high luxury, adrenaline or relaxation, culture or nature, a long-term adventure or a quick weekend—the possibilities are endless. Like for anywhere, a little information and preparation will greatly improve your trip, but knowing what to do may not be obvious, especially the first time around.

With this in mind, here are my top tips for first time travelers so you can plan the fun, safe and economical adventure of your dreams in Mexico.

SONY DSC

Choose only one city or one region to explore

In Mexico, long distances separate popular travel destinations like the Mayan Riviera, Oaxaca, Mexico City, and Puerto Vallarta. For example, driving from Tijuana to Los Cabos (on the southern tip of Baja California, known to foreigners as “Cabo”) takes at least 20 hours—so how long do you think the bus will take?

Remember, every day you spend traveling between destinations is a day you miss out on enjoying a destination. So, unless you have plenty of time—like more than two weeks—plan to visit only one place or travel around only one region in Mexico.

If you love culture and big, dynamic cities, go to Mexico City with a day trip to a nearby area. If you love nature, go to Chiapas, or rent a car to explore the Huasteca Potosina.

If you love the beach, you have numerous options—Oaxaca for rustic, low-priced adventure and surfing; areas around Cancun for white sand, clear water, Mayan ruins and a unique ecosystem; Los Cabos for partying, fishing and scuba diving; Nayarit, Mazatlan, the list goes on and on.

Reconsider your resort

Staying at an all-inclusive resort is fun—you can hang at the pool all day, meet other travelers, and eat and drink as much as you want. So if you just want to relax, go for it.

But if you are looking for any culture, skip the resort. If you want adventure—exploring on foot or local transportation—skip the resort. And skip the resort if you are on a budget. The price of staying in a smaller, local hotel and eating at authentic, affordable (and amazing) local restaurants will almost always be cheaper.

Avoid high season

To avoid crowds and save money on hotels, try not to travel during Mexico’s high seasons, which are:

  • Mid December to Mid January, especially between Christmas and New Year’s
  • The week before Easter, called Semana Santa, when everyone has at least a few days off
  • Late July and early August, when many Mexicans have a one- or two-week vacation

Long weekends and holidays can get busy too, such as Mexican Independence Day (September 15-16), the Day of the Dead (the first days of November), and all the “days”—Mother’s Day, Children’s Day, etc. These are bad times to be on the highways, especially on the first and last days of the holiday.

Also, particularly during high season and holidays, try not to check into a resort or a big hotel on Friday afternoon and check out on Sunday morning, because the lines may be really long and slow, as everyone is beginning or ending their weekend trip.

If your only opportunity to travel is during high season, however, don’t cancel your trip—just plan on spending a little more money for a hotel, spending a little more time at the airport or getting to a popular tourist destination, and dealing with crowds—but nothing unreasonable.

Don’t be in a hurry

Things can move pretty slowly in Mexico, especially as you travel farther south, where I’ve heard Mexicans from Mexico City complain about slow service, slow walking, slow talking…

Buses may be incredibly indirect, a protest may shut down the highway, the museum you want to visit may be inexplicably closed—you never know what could happen, and you shouldn’t let it ruin your time.

So plan your days with lots of wiggle room. For example, if you think it will take four hours to enjoy the place you want to see, plan for six or more.

SONY DSC

Ignore the hustlers

In tourist spots from Cabo to Cancun, hustlers prowl the beaches and promenades offering tours, boat trips, souvenirs, cigars, and meth masquerading as cocaine. They have a specific, time-tested, friendly approach that can be hard to ignore. Yes my friend, whatever you need, they got it.

You only need one word with these people, a firm gracias. Don’t apologize, don’t stop walking, and don’t laugh at their jokes, or you’ll spend your whole trip dodging them. Sure, go ahead and buy from them if you want, but remember that it’s always best to go straight to the source for any activities—the boat dock or park entrance, for instance; souvenirs are always cheaper in markets; and buying drugs is begging to get ripped off.

What’s most important, however, is that these hustlers don’t sour you to the general friendliness of average Mexicans. Just because you’ve had enough of annoying sales pitches doesn’t mean that everyone who tries to make conversation wants to sell you something.

Save your tourist card from immigration

Most tourists are allowed to stay in Mexico for 180 days, which corresponds to about six months. This time is written on a little card that you fill out before going through immigration, which is also stamped. Save it with your passport because you will need to turn it in when you leave the country. Without it you’ll be charged a fine of $42 USD (or 525 pesos).

Know how to get out of the airport

The easiest and most expensive way is to go to an authorized taxi stand inside the airport. You pay there and then take the receipt to the driver. The price is determined by where you go, not by how many people use it, so try to find people to share with.

Whatever you do, never simply walk outside the airport and hail a cab—it’s not safe.

If you want to save money—sometimes a lot of money—do some research online to see if a bus goes from the airport to where your hotel is. Most airports in Mexico either have a bus stop outside or a little bus station inside, including Mexico City, Cancun, and San Jose del Cabo. Using a bus means you’ll spend 40 pesos instead of 400.

Get multiple destination flights

If you have the time and are planning a longer adventure in Mexico, fly into one city and fly out of another. For a month-long trip covering the best of the south, you could fly into Cancun and then out of Tuxtla Gutierrez in Chiapas. If you have several weeks and want to explore the colonial cities of Mexico’s central highlands, you could fly into Mexico City and then out of Guadalajara. To travel the entire Baja California Peninsula, fly into Tijuana or Ensenada and out of Los Cabos or La Paz (or vice-versa).

This option is called Multiple Destinations on most travel websites, and it can save you a lot of time and money.

Fly long distances, don’t take the bus

A flight between distant cities is typically cheaper than taking a bus, and of course much faster. Mexico has several independent airlines, like Interjet, Volaris, and Vive Aerobus. Always check their prices before you commit to a long-distance bus.

Look for “alternative” bus stations

If you are really trying to save money, go to the city’s second-class bus station or an independent bus station for the cheapest transportation options. In Mexico City, for example, you can catch cheap buses to Chiapas near the huge Merced market, cheap buses to Oaxaca near the airport, and cheap buses north (Monterrey and points between) about halfway between the zocalo and Garibaldi Plaza.

These buses usually don’t have websites and aren’t listed in Lonely Planet or on Google Maps—you have to ask around for them.

Bring warm clothes and earplugs on the bus

It may be steaming hot when you get on the bus, but once they get going, they tend to crank up the air conditioning and play non-stop movies in Spanish. A jacket and earplugs are crucial.

Rent a car, and rent wisely

You can rent cars for cheap in Mexico, and despite some dangers and nuisances, driving is a great way to see the country. Be aware that the insurance you buy from travel websites is not valid in Mexico. When you get to the counter, the price can double or even triple when they add insurance. You can avoid this by renting directly from car rental company websites and reading all that boring fine print.

Stay in small hotels to save money

On side streets in Mexico City, hidden behind the big international hotels, you can find family-run hotels with decent rooms for as little as 200 or 300 pesos per night (between 10 and 15 USD).

For the same price, you’ll find hotels in Playa del Carmen a block or two from the beach. This goes for nearly anywhere in Mexico—you won’t be right on the beach or on the fanciest street in town, but just around the corner.

You can search Google Maps or booking.com or whichever online travel site you like, which is a good option for your first few nights in the country. But to save big money, you’ll find the cheapest hotels in Mexico by just walking around.

By the way, the hostels listed in Lonely Planet and other guidebooks are not your cheapest option. In most places, you can find a private room in a small hotel for the same price as a bed in a crowded, noisy dorm room in a hostel. Stay in a hostel to meet people, not to save money. (Although in some places it’s possible to find dirty and unsafe hostels that cost less than a tall can of beer.)

Try airbnb

If you have a large group, want a kitchen, or will stay somewhere for a long time, take a look at airbnb, which is slowly becoming more popular in Mexico. You don’t need an account to browse the options.

Regarding water

Yes, you can’t drink tap water in Mexico unless you stay at a nice hotel where they specifically tell you it’s ok. In this case, there should be a little sign in the bathroom that says the water is potable. Or there may be a water cooler in the lobby.

The tap water is fine for brushing your teeth, showering, washing vegetables, etc.

Buy large bottles of water

Buying those little bottles of water can add up, so if you will stay in one place for more than a few days, buy a big bottle of water at a convenience store.

You have to pay a deposit for the largest ones (20 liters), so save the receipt so you can return the bottle later.

Don’t obsess over ice

Because of the tap water issue, some travelers have somehow gotten the idea that they have to be constantly vigilant about ice in restaurant drinks. They don’t. Of course restaurants use clean water for drinks—if they didn’t, all the locals would get sick too and the place would go out of business. The idea that Mexicans can drink the water because their bodies are used to it is straight-up wrong.

I cringe when I hear someone asking (usually in English) if the ice was made with filtered water. It’s a pointless question, like asking if the food is good in the restaurant—if it wasn’t, do you think they’d tell you?

If you are really worried, just order your drink with no ice, or ask for a beer.

Don’t stick the whole lime in your beer

Just squeeze the juice into it. And yes, in Mexico they use limes, not lemons.

SONY DSC

Beer lovers, buy caguamas

The cheapest way to drink beer in Mexico is a caguama, a big bottle roughly the size of a 40-oz. There’s a deposit on the bottle, so save your receipt so you can return it later.

Yes, Coca-Cola is better in Mexico

Have you heard this before? That Coca-Cola is better in Mexico because they still use cane sugar instead of corn syrup?

I didn’t believe it either until the first time I flew back to the U.S. after my first year of living in Mexico. I rarely drink soda, but I ordered one on the airplane. One sip of the U.S.-produced Coke and I could tell the difference.

Don’t drink from the bottle

Your best Coca-Cola, and of course your best beer, comes from a glass bottle. You’ll notice that the bottle of soda always comes with a straw, and the beer with a glass to pour it into.

I learned this trick in Asia—when you see that the bottle was recycled, take a look under the rim at the top of the neck to see all the dirt that has piled up from multiple recyclings. Because of this nasty residue, don’t drink straight from the bottle unless you wipe it down clean with a napkin first. That’s why your beer or soda will sometimes come with a napkin wrapped around the neck.

Drink fresh juice

It’s cheap and available everywhere, especially juice stands in public markets, where a liter of freshly-squeezed orange juice (or something fancier) usually costs between 20-40 pesos (1.50 to 3 USD).

Avoid touristy restaurants

When you see a fun-looking restaurant full of colorful sombreros and sarapes, Mexican flags, and singing mariachis, but it’s full of foreigners speaking English, don’t eat there. Mexicans tend to think that foreigners don’t like spicy food, so they dumb it down. If a tired basket of nachos sits on every table and the salsa tastes like marinara sauce, then you’re in the wrong place.

But when you see an open space with concrete-block walls, no decorations, and a handwritten cardboard sign with the menu on it, and it’s full of locals, eat there to experience real Mexican food.

Every town has a taco or seafood restaurant that’s known locally as the best. Find it. Ask locals for advice, but not tour guides or taxi drivers, who will recommend their friend’s restaurant. If all else fails, try at the front desk of your hotel, but explain that you want something real. Otherwise you will be directed to a restaurant with the “Americanized” Mexican food they think foreigners like.

SONY DSC

Avoid foreign food outside of tourist areas

In places with lots of tourists, you can get good pizza, good steak, good burgers, good sushi, all kinds of stuff.

But once you are off the beaten path, stick to Mexican food. Much like how Mexican food outside of Mexico is altered according to foreign tastes, foreign food in Mexico is altered according to Mexican tastes. This means sushi covered in melted cheese, steaks and burgers cooked beyond well-done, and pizza with barely any tomato sauce. (My theory is that it doesn’t matter to them because Mexicans drench pizza with hot sauce or ketchup anyway.)

Tip 10% at restaurants

Check your bill to make sure it wasn’t already included. Also watch out for overcharging and pay in Mexican pesos, not with another currency or with a credit card.

If you go to the supermarket, give the person who bags your groceries a peso or two. Give five to ten pesos to the guy who fills your tank at the gas station. At the hotel, give 10-20 pesos to the guy who shows you to your room. If you stay in an all-inclusive resort, leave a 50 or 100 at the bar if you drink a lot.

Mexicans don’t tip taxi drivers, but in tourist areas they seem to expect it from foreigners. So if your driver is friendly or helpful, give him an extra 10 or 20 pesos, but if not, don’t worry about it.

Shop and eat in markets

Markets are one of the best places to visit in Mexico, period. You can stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, browse odd witchcraft supplies, and get some of the best and cheapest local food at small restaurants found in the corner of every market. (Tip: Look for the busiest restaurant and eat there.)

As you wander around, people will constantly call out to you, asking you to buy something. Don’t let them intimidate you, it’s just how they do business. Just like for hustlers, you only need to reply with gracias, which also means “no thank you.”

SONY DSC

…but don’t be a cheapskate

I can’t count how many times I’ve visited a market with a world traveler who has social conscience and makes sure you know it. You know this type—some even imply that their mere presence in the foreign country is somehow helping it in some vague way.

Yet I’m always surprised to see these same people haggling with every vendor they see, trying to get a five peso discount. In my opinion, if you really want to do good, don’t bargain with farmers over fruit. They may raise the price a little because of your terrible Spanish, but can you blame them? You have a $500 DSLR camera hanging around your neck! Traveling should never be a competition with strangers to see how little money you can spend.

Sure, it’s necessary to bargain in touristy markets that sell souvenirs, but it’s rarely done for food in markets. If you don’t like the price, thank the vendor and keep looking.

Also, don’t treat markets like a nonstop photo opportunity. You’ll get a better picture if you ask the person first, and you’re more likely to get a yes and a big smile if you buy something before asking.

Pack light, pack right

If you plan on changing destinations a few times, whether by airplane or bus, try to pack as little as possible—carry-on size or small enough to fit between your knees on the bus.

Unless you need it for work or something else important, don’t bring the laptop and all the devices. You’ll not only waste time playing with them, but you’ll worry about them whenever your bag is out of sight, like in the luggage area above or below the bus.

There are some things, however, that you should bring no matter what. You’ll need some warm clothes for high altitudes, late nights, and air-conditioned buses. You’ll need some long pants to blend in away from the beach. (Mexicans don’t wear shorts and flip-flops in the city.) And you’ll need some basics like a raincoat, sunscreen, earplugs (your hotel might be next to a nightclub), and swimming gear, even if you won’t go to the coast, because many hotels have pools.

Check out more detailed packing suggestions here.

Know the exchange rate

A guaranteed way to get overcharged is to have no idea how much pesos are worth in your home currency. Look it up online and make some notes about how much 100, 200, and 500 pesos are worth, and keep the cheat sheet in your pocket.

If you don’t speak Spanish, carry a pen and paper everywhere for people to write prices on for you. Taxis, for instance, don’t have meters, so you must agree on the price beforehand.

Don’t pay in U.S. dollars

This is another good way to get ripped off. When someone says you can pay in U.S. dollars (or some other foreign currency), say no, because the exchange rate they will use will be ridiculous.

Exceptions to this are places with a fixed fee, like nice hotels, some tourist destinations, and even some nightclubs. You can check if using U.S. dollars is the usual way to pay by checking the place’s website.

Another exception to this is Baja California, where you can pay in dollars almost everywhere and the exchange rates are typically good. But be sure to know the rate, of course.

Pay in cash, and get it from an ATM at a bank

Don’t use your debit or credit card to pay at restaurants or bars. (Hotels are probably ok.) If someone steals your number, they can run up lots of charges. Banks usually reimburse you for this, but it’s still a pain in the ass.

Get cash from ATMs, and match the symbols on the back of your card (Cirrus, the Exchange, etc.) to the same symbol on an ATM to minimize fees.

Use ATMs at banks, not private ones on the street that charge higher fees, and always withdraw money in the daytime. Avoid the 15th and last days of every month, when everyone gets paid and the ATM lines can be extraordinarily long.

Also, be sure to inform your bank with a phone call that you will be traveling so they won’t put a hold on your card.

Yes, it’s a bad idea to change money in most airports because of terrible exchange rates, but (for the moment) the rates at the Mexico City airport are surprisingly good, although not inside the baggage claim area. Wait until you clear customs to change money, and as always be sure to know the real rate so you can compare.

Read this for more about managing your money in Mexico.

SONY DSC

Carry lots of change

If you’re going to take local buses, shop in a public market, or eat on the street, don’t try to pay with a big bill (200 or 500 pesos), as they probably won’t have change. Save your change every time you buy something so you can use it later.

See a doctor in a pharmacy if you get sick

Most pharmacies have a doctor’s office attached where you can see a doctor for free or really cheap. This is a great option for a bad stomach, insect bites, or any other non-emergency. The doctors typically prescribe lots of medicine, but you only need the crucial ones, like antibiotics.

Go to the dentist

Every office I’ve been to has been fully modern and exceptionally inexpensive (like 10-20 USD for a cleaning).

Don’t flush toilet paper

That little garbage can next to the toilet is for the toilet paper, which you should never flush. Mexican sewage systems can’t handle it. This, like “don’t drink the water,” is true for pretty much everywhere in the developing world.

Don’t get taxis on the street in Mexico City

They aren’t safe. Ask your hotel to call a service for you, or use the metro (subway) system, which will almost definitely go where you want to go.

Walk carefully

Keep your eyes on the sidewalk—stepping into an unmarked hole is no fun. Cross the street carefully because pedestrians do not have the right of way in Mexico. For safety’s sake, don’t wander around at night, and even in the daytime, always ask the person at the front desk of the hotel if it’s safe to walk where you want to go. And, wherever you go, don’t walk around with your face in a smartphone or map—it makes you a target for thieves.

SONY DSC

Keep your safety on your mind at all times

No, Mexico is not nearly as dangerous as the headlines want you to believe. Most tourist areas are perfectly safe for those who take the right precautions—wallet in the front pocket, head up, no drinks from strangers, the usual advice.

Don’t let your guard down, however. The most important way to stay safe is evade anyone who gives you a bad vibe. People traveling everywhere get into bad situations just because they don’t want to offend a stranger. Your safety is far more important than your pride.

Don’t be discouraged by people who have never visited

Why is it that people who don’t travel so often try to discourage those who do? No, you aren’t asking for trouble just by visiting Mexico, and no, it’s not automatically your fault if you get in trouble. And, yes, go to Mexico—you’ll love it.

Learn a little Spanish

Honestly, this one isn’t even necessary for tourist areas. You’ll find that most hotel and restaurant workers speak English, and after diligently studying Spanish before your trip, you may find yourself frustrated by waiters who answer you in English after hearing your broken Spanish.

But, to be polite, especially off the beaten path, that month or two of light studying will be enormously helpful. At least learn the correct greetings in Spanish and how to ask, “Do you speak English?”

When in Mexico, do as the Mexicans do 

The best way to have a great trip while saving money is to travel the way Mexicans do. Most of the tips on this list relate to this basic advice. Stay where Mexicans stay, eat where they eat, and visit the places they like to visit. Greet them, chat with them, get to know them. Take their advice and consider their point of view. You’ll find that, more often than not, they will offer you the same courtesy.

Have a great trip, and please ask anything or leave more tips in the comments.

I’ve updated my Cancun and Mayan Riviera guide

Hello friends. Thanks for visiting my blog. Look to the right of this page and you’ll see the cover of my guide to Cancun and the Mayan Riviera.

When I wrote it three years ago, I had no idea it would become so popular, at times hovering in the top 5 (or top 3!) guidebooks for Mexico.

So with that in mind, last week I finished a comprehensive update, and now it’s available for download from Unanchor.com or Amazon.com (links below).

playa trees

As always, my Cancun and Mayan Riviera 5-Day Itinerary is for the independent traveler who likes the beach but also wants some culture. Besides saving a lot of money, you will:

  • Have two full days on two gorgeous beaches: Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
  • Explore two Mayan ruins: Chichén Itzá, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, and Tulum, a sunny fortress built on cliffs overlooking one of the most iconic beaches in Mexico.
  • Dip your toe into local culture in Valladolid, a small colonial town in central Yucatán.
  • Swim, snorkel, or scuba dive in the clear, freshwater Dos Ojos cenote.
  • Eat what Mexicans eat: seafood, tacos, and Yucatán specialties like panuchos and salbutes.
  • Shop, party, get tan, and learn some Spanish, history, and culture. And, if time permits, explore more places in the region, including Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, the Cobá ruins, Xpu-Ha beach, and Mérida.

xpu ha

What’s new in this new edition? I went back to all the restaurants and hotels I’d recommended. A few restaurants had disappeared, and one cheap hotel had become a cheap and quite rundown hotel. So out of the guide it went.

Then I added more restaurants and hotels, especially in Playa del Carmen, and I updated the prices for public transportation. I put in lots of new information on other places to visit in the Mayan Riviera and Yucatan, with directions to more cenotes, lovely Xpu-ha beach, incredible Isla Mujeres, and the adventurous Cobá ruins, among others. And now there’s advice on how to visit the big nature parks like Xel-ha, Xcaret and Xplor, as well as even more tips on dealing with hustlers, bargaining in markets, searching out authentic food, and communicating if you don’t speak Spanish.

islands

Maybe you’re thinking, hey, I already bought the guide, what about me? Well, if you bought it on Unanchor.com, the update is already there, so just go to your account.

If you bought it on Amazon, and would like a copy of the update, please email me a screenshot of your proof of purchase, and I’ll send you the new version. (Or, just buy it — it’s still cheap at $6.99) Thanks.

Contact: NoHayBroncaBlog@gmail.com

From Amazon:

Cancun Unanchor Travel Guide – Cancun and Mayan Riviera 5-Day Itinerary

Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial

From Unanchor.com:

What to Pack for a Trip to Mexico

This post contains affiliate links.

Traveling to Mexico soon? Good idea. You won’t need to bring much, and the most important things don’t go in your bag: an open-mind, a friendly nature, curiosity about culture, adventurous tastes, and common sense.

But what about that bag, what do you put in it? And which bag do you choose anyway?

The bag

I have a special loathing for roller bags. Yes, they are very useful after a trip back home, when it gets stuffed with books or Christmas presents. But on an adventurous trip with several destinations, the wheels get neglected as you end up carrying it like any other bulky, heavy bag.

Backpacks are essential, but there are few sadder sights than the traveler in dirty clothes carrying a $500 backpack and haggling over a bag of fruit in the market. The bigger the backpack, full of expensive electronics and who-knows-what else, the worse the picture becomes.

Good quality, functional backpacks can be cheap. At the time of writing, this one was on sale for $30 USD (click the picture):

Smaller is better. It’s no fun hunching under a heavy bag that towers over your head. Fortunately, in Mexico all you need should fit in a medium-sized backpack (like the one above, maybe a little bigger).

Be sure to bring:

  • One sweater or hoodie (chilly nights and overly air-conditioned buses)
  • Flip flops — for the beach or the hostel shower (but you can get cheap ones in Mexico)
  • Jeans or long pants — to blend in when not on the beach (Mexicans are more formal)
  • One nice outfit, for that night out
  • Sunscreen (it’s expensive in Mexico)
  • Sunglasses (the cheap ones in Mexico don’t have UV protection, bad news)
  • Tiger Balm — this stuff cures mosquito bites, trust me. I take it everywhere I go. But don’t buy the “extra strength” red one — it stains.

  • Swim suit — even if you aren’t going to the beach, your hotel may have a pool
  • Flip flops — for the beach or the hostel shower. Though you can get cheap ones in Mexico, the best are rugged and comfortable Havaianas from Brasil:

  • Several ATM cards — they give your best exchange rate, and you need backups
  • A money belt or pouch to hide the essentials while you are between hotels on public transportation:

  • A small backpacking towel for cheap hotels (Once in Mexico, you can buy a thin blanket for the beach):

  • A tiny, cheap, collapsable day pack:

  • A packable raincoat if you go in rainy season, which occurs at different times in all over Mexico:

  • If you are addicted to coffee and want to save time and money by making it yourself, get a hotel with a kitchen (to boil water), buy a bag of locally-produced coffee in a market, and use one of these pour-through coffee makers:

  • Fun things: frisbee (hard to find here), guitar (lots of musicians around), sketchbook, camera, etc. — but consider leaving the smartphone and laptop at home. Keep in touch by email at computer rooms (everywhere), and give a rest to all the rest.

Please see my article How To Pack Light for Independent Travel for more packing tips.

Books

Guidebooks

You can survive without a guidebook in Mexico, but they are undeniably useful. If you need one, Lonely Planet is the standard — it covers the whole country and has plenty of maps.

If you are going to Cancun or the Mayan Riviera, then buy my guidebook! I promise you’ll save much more by following my suggestions for hotels, transportation, restaurants, and attractions (click the picture).

I also have a guidebook for nearby Chiapas:

Spanish language books

You don’t need a phrasebook — you can find all the basics online. Plus, phrasebooks don’t really teach you anything. If you want a book that covers all the basics (restaurants, doctor’s office, etc.) but actually explains the language, I recommend this book (click the picture):

If you are serious about learning Spanish, Madrigal’s Magic Key is absolutely the best book for understanding its complicated grammar. You can do a page or two in the morning and then practice on the street that day. It’s only $9 USD and paperback size. (Tip: don’t write in the book — go back and do the exercises again.)

Novels / beach reading

Mexican literature is vast and wonderful. For more suggestions, including books about politics and history, please click here.

Magic is real in Magic Realism, a literary genre strong in Latin America (Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, many more). Like Water for Chocolate is a recent Mexican contribution, also made into a decent movie. As usual, the book is better — and it has recipes!

Written by an gringo who spent 12 years living, traveling and researching in Mexico, Aztec is as epic as epic gets: 1,000 pages of blood, sex, and adventure as good or better than Shogun or Game of Thrones.

Thanks for reading and please tell me what I missed in the comments.

%d bloggers like this: