‘Viva Mexico!’ (‘Long Live Mexico’) was how Miguel Hidalgo rallied his fellow Mexicanos to the struggle against colonialism, and it is a cry that is repeated by the president and echoed throughout the land every 15 September— Independence Day. As slogans go, it could not be more appropriate, as Mexico is bursting with life. It’s a country of many different identities—a multi-ethnic society of Native American, Spanish and American traditions. Among its highlights are the Aztec, Olmec and Maya civilisations and the colonial architecture of San Cristobal. Jungles, mountains, deserts and beaches all make up Mexico’s rich flora and fauna. You can find wolves and coyotes in the north, ocelots, jaguars, peccaries, bears and pumas in the mountains, and seals on the coasts. As well as the stunning scenery and the wide variety of animals, Mexico City boasts the largest urban sprawl in the world, even though the city is surrounded by mountains. Its historic centre is an UNESCO World Heritage site.
Small Group Tours
Embark on an exciting adventure through historic Mexico and colourful Cuba.
Embark on an exciting adventure through historic Mexico and colourful Cuba.
Mexico provides an endless adventure for the senses, with its archaeological marvels, teeming cities and chili-spiced cuisine.
Mexico Facts & Tips
Did you know?
- Mexico consists of a federation of thirty-one states and one federal district. The district, Mexico City, is one of the most populated cities on the planet.
- The official name for Mexico is the United Mexican States.
- Mexico City hosted the nineteenth Olympic Games in 1968. It has also hosted the FIFA World Cup twice, in 1970 and 1986.
- The Mayan pyramid of Chichen Itza was named one of the new wonders of the world in 2007.
- The national sport of Mexico is bull fighting. All the large cities in Mexico have bullrings. The largest bullring in the world is La Monumental in Mexico City.
- Mexico is also home to the world’s smallest volcano, Cuexcomate Volcano, which stands only 43 feet high.
- Mexico covers almost two million square kilometres. It is the fourteenth largest country in the world, and the fifth largest in the Americas. It is also the most populated Spanish speaking country in the world
Visas & Passports
Australian passport holders travelling to Mexico do not need a visa at this time.
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
Australian Embassy in Mexico:
Ruben Dario 55, Polanco
Colonia Bosque de Chapultepec, CP
11580 Mexico City
Ph: +52 55 1101 2200
Fax: +52 55 1101 2201
The official currency of Mexico is the Mexican Peso. Notes are in denominations of M$1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50 and 20.
The recommended currency to take to Mexico is the USD. Once in Mexico you will be able to change some dollars into the local currency. Ensure you change a small amount into small denominations. Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it, otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.
If you don’t have Mexican Peso’s with you on arrival, we advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.
Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.
- The price of a cappuccino in Mexico is approximately 2.30USD
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately 7USD
- The price dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately 17USD
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately 2USD
Thanks to pre-Hispanic and Spanish influences, Mexican cuisine, with more than 20 centuries of tradition, brings together the flavours of two continents with colourful and delicious dishes. World-famous for its diversity, the government has asked UNESCO to declare Mexican cuisine a “Masterpiece of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity”. The key to Mexican gastronomy is the vast number of ingredients used, including corn, beans, chilli peppers, vegetables and domestic meats.
National specialties include tortillas, enchiladas, tacos and mole, which refer to several very different sauces, based around garlic and chilli. Mole poblano is a chocolate sauce poured over turkey. Green mole verde is made from fresh herbs. Guacamole is an avocado mole with red peppers, onions and tomatoes. Tequila is probably one of the best-known liquors in the world. It is a tradition in Mexico and you should take advantage of your stay in the country to buy and taste some of the finest tequilas available.
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
No time is a bad time to visit Mexico, though the coastal and low-lying regions, especially in the southern half of the country, are fairly hot and humid from May to September (these are the months of highest rainfall and highest temperatures almost everywhere). The interior of the country has a more temperate climate than the coasts. In fact, it’s sometimes decidedly chilly in the north and the centre from November to February.
Want to get out and explore on your own?
Mexican cities are very easy to get around—most major cities have a thorough public transport network that includes trains and buses, and taxis are cheap and plentiful. There are generally three types of taxis in Mexican cities: street taxis that you can hail on the street, radio taxis operating from taxi stands (called sitios) and bike taxis operating in the inner city. Taxis in Mexico City are reasonable, and the drivers can be very helpful. Be aware that there are increasing instances of taxi crime. It is not a good idea to hail cabs from the street, day or night. Use only registered hotel cabs or call a radio cab. If you are dining out, have the restaurant hail a cab from their “sitio” or have them call a radio cab for you. Always get the number of the cab they are sending and wait for that particular cab and check the number you were given against the number on the cab.
When catching taxis, make sure you have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. We recommend you ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Mexico…
There is no shortage of shopping opportunities in Mexico, from fashionable clothing boutiques to bustling market places selling traditional indigenous crafts. Mexico is renowned for its fine jewellery, silverware and gold. The best woodworkers are in Guadalajara, but furniture from the region is available for sale in Mexico City, as are crafts from all other parts of the country. For large items, overseas shipping can be arranged at reasonable rates. In the markets, good buys include ceramics and pottery—particularly black clay dishes from the Oaxaca region. Woven wool blankets (sarapes), brightly coloured scarves in wool or silk (rebozos) and richly embroidered charro hats make great presents. In Mexico City, head to the artisan’s markets in La Ciudedala and Plaza del Buen Tono for the best bargains. Hammocks, rugs, baskets, carved wood and embossed leather can be found almost everywhere but are overpriced close to beach resorts. Skip the stalls in Cancún’s Hotel Zone and head downtown instead, to the Ki Huic Open Air Market. For women’s clothing, try on some huipiles (white Mayan dresses embroidered with colourful flowers); for men, look for a guayabera (a fine pleated shirt in cotton voile) or huaraches (traditional sandals).
Malls are very popular in all the beach resorts, and range from pricey palaces full of designer boutiques, such as Plaza Caracol in Cancún to more modest affairs such as Acapulco’s Marbella Mall. Most have a mixture of local shops and international chain stores. People who visit Mexico rate shopping at the local markets as one of the most rewarding travel experiences they encounter. Bargaining and barter are common activities in Mexico, especially at markets, artefact stores and handicraft workshops. If you speak Spanish (even broken Spanish) you stand a much better chance of getting a better a deal on your purchases. Never accept the first price you’re offered, but be realistic with your offers, and don’t become too aggressive with your position. Mexican market traders are usually polite people who enjoy a good trade negotiation; however, they may become offended if you are too obstinate and will simply cease bargaining with you completely. Keep in mind that the people selling arts, crafts and artefacts are generally poor artisans making a simple living and often supporting a family. Some may also be the creators of the wares they are offering for sale, so any deep devaluation of their work may be taken personally, too. Department stores and large (chain) hotels will not barter with you.
- Use formal greetings when addressing Mexican locals for the first time. For example, Señor or Señora plus their last name.
- A quick ‘Buenos días!’ when addressing shop clerks and waiting staff shows respect and will garner better service.
- Attempt to speak Spanish—it will be much appreciated and endear you to Mexicans.
- Be prepared to wait! Mexico is slower paced, and Mexicans enjoy siesta time (between 2–5pm), a time for relaxation, not work.
- Mexicans typically arrive for social events an hour late—if you expect punctuality mention the time is ‘a la gringa’, or North American time.
- Regardless of what you may see, pedestrians actually do have the right-of-way. Be very careful crossing the streets. Watch out for cars that are turning from the wrong lane and watch carefully for cars even if you have the green light.
- Mexicans stand closer to one another than other North Americans do. Stepping back may be considered insulting.
- Don’t wear fancy jewellery or flash large sums of money, especially at night
Celebrations & Public Holidays
Mexico is a country renowned for its colorful fiestas, deeply religious celebrations, and community-based events. Family tends to be at the centre of Mexico holidays, such as Semana Santa, when locals head to relatives homes. Although Carnanval is celebrated throughout Spanish-speaking countries, Mexico is one of the most vibrant nations in which to enjoy this hedonistic celebration, with everyone out on the streets taking part in this lively event.
Day of the Dead (known as Día de Muertos in Spanish) is celebrated in Mexico between October 31st and November 2nd. On this holiday, Mexicans remember and honor their deceased loved ones. ... Mexicans visit cemeteries, decorate the graves and spend time there, in the presence of their deceased friends and family members.
Carnaval - Late February/early March sees the most vibrant and spectacular festival on Latin America’s calendar, and this is one of the best times of the year to visit Mexico. No matter where you go, it is virtually impossible to escape the party in full-swing. The most elaborate celebrations occur in La Paz and Veracruz where everybody pulls out their fancy dress and puts away their inhibitions. The dancing, drink, and debauchery goes on for days with music, dancing, fireworks, and huge parades.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
- New Year’s Day
- Constitution Day (01 February)
- Cinco de Mayo
- Independence Day (16 September)
- Day of the Dead (02 November)
- Revolution Day
- Christmas Day
Sprawling across a valley encircled by ice-capped volcanoes and mountains, atop an ancient Aztec civilisation, Mexico City is one of the world’s most densely populated cities. With a long and fascinating history that runs from ancient native civilisations through to the invasion of the Conquistadors and subsequent colonial rule, Mexico City has a vast number of fascinating sights and attractions. These include world-class museums and galleries, a remarkable architectural legacy of elegant buildings, palaces and cathedrals, green open spaces, colonial suburbs and historical ruins. It is exhilarating, frenetic and fascinating—an unabated reserve of vibrancy and life. Mexico City is a modern, cosmopolitan and ever-growing city that is a magnet for Mexicans and tourists alike. Photo by Frank Bunnik.
San Cristóbal de las Casas (San Cristóbal)
San Cristóbal is a colonial town of white stucco walls and red-tile roofs. There are cobblestone streets, narrow sidewalks, graceful arcades and open plazas. It lies in a lush valley nearly 2,121 metres high. Surrounding the city are many villages of Mayan-speaking Indians who display great variety in their language, dress, and customs, making this area one of the most fascinating in Mexico. San Cristóbal is the principal market town for these Indians, and their point of contact with the outside world. Most of them trek down from the surrounding mountains to sell goods and perform errands. Photo by Marion Bunnik.
The city of Merida was founded in 1542 by Francisco de Montejo “El Joven” and is a cosmopolitan city that still conserves its colonial atmosphere and the majesty of its constructions. When a visitor arrives in Merida, they enter a different world full of romanticism, culture and history. The richness of its impressive colonial architecture is shown in marvellous buildings such as the Main Square, St. Idelfons’ Cathedral, the Governor’s Palace, the Nun’s Church (Iglesia de Monjas), the Mejorada Square and the Ermita of Santa Isabel. The French influence is portrayed all over the constructions from the beginning of the century, which also enjoyed the developed Sisal industry of the State. In order to preserve the Yucatecan traditions, there are different cultural activities performed every night in the different downtown parks and plazas; festivals of music, dance and song. Photo by Marion Bunnik.
The ancient Mayan city of Palenque, with its superb jungle setting and exquisite architecture and decoration, is one of the marvels of Mexico. Palenque was first occupied around 100BC, but it flourished from about 600 to 700AD. Its pyramid structures feature intricate and very fine stucco and carved bas-relief depicting historical and mythical events relating to the reign of the Mayan ruler, Lord Pacal, and his descendants. Photo by Marion Bunnik.
South & Central America Destinations
From the sub-tropical jungles and steamy falls of Iguazu to the frozen Antarctic water of Tierra del Fuego, it is incredible to believe that one country can contain so much.
Landlocked and sharing borders with Peru, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Paraguay, Bolivia is an intriguing country to visit with a diverse natural environment.
Containing some of the most diverse flora and fauna, Brazil is home to the largest rainforest, one of the world’s longest rivers, and the biggest and most exuberant festivals on the planet.
A land of extremes from the arid Atacama Desert in the north to the southern icebergs of Patagonia, there are few countries on earth that could claim such diversity and so many varied attractions than Chile.
Colombia is , a country of spectacular natural beauty, filled with warm, friendly locals, a fascinating history and an abundance of culture and nightlife.
Costa Rica is a pleasure to explore with the country’s lush and rugged natural beauty, stunning coastlines and fascinating history.
Enjoy incredible scenery at Cienfuegos, discover the rich history at Habana Vieja and immerse yourself in the culture of Trinidad.
Ecuador, the smallest Andean country in South America, offers a wealth of vibrant indigenous cultures, colonial architecture, volcanic landscapes and dense rainforests.
As the birthplace of the ancient Maya civilisation, Guatemala is an intriguing mix of history and culture with an incredible array of natural scenery thrown into the equation.
The rich history, archaeology, wildlife and enduring indigenous cultures of Peru all add up to make it one of South America’s most popular destinations.