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Mexico        Rêve Mexicain en français
 
 
 
Generalities for Mexico
 Page updated on 03.10.2015
 
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colorful houses in Oaxaca What do you need to know before your stay in Mexico ?

Internet access

Mexico has really entered the Internet era. Even though few Mexicans own a computer, most of the younger people frequent Internet cafés. There are a large number of these cafes and it is very easy to find one in smaller towns as well as places like Mexico City. Most of the establishments have a High Speed Internet connection. You won’t have to worry about accessing the Internet and the cost usually doesn’t exceed 15/20 Mexican pesos an hour.

Left picture : colorful houses in Oaxaca

If you want to access your email, simply log on to your ISP (Internet Service Provider) web mail access (be sure to try this at home first to make sure it works before you start your trip). You will need to know your user name and password.


If you are traveling with your PDA or your laptop, there are many “hot spots” (WIFI accesses) available in Mexico. Many hotels and restaurants provide either free or charged Internet access. In addition, several international wireless connections networks offer “hot spots” in Mexico.

Boingo : This network has about 2800 hot spots in Mexico for 15 US$ for a month's subscription that gives you unlimited access ! (click here)

If you move to Mexico, you will be pleased to know that several ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have high-speed connections as good as the European or American ones with subscriptions costing about 100 Mexican pesos a month.

Nice video of 5 minutes about the tourism in the different states of Mexico. Video prepared by the Secretariat of mexican tourism board  

People

Hammocks of YucatánTourism is a very important source of income in Mexico.

As per figures given by Alejandro Rojas, Secretary for D.F. tourism, Mexico has received the visit of 19 603 481 tourists in 2010. These 19,6 millions of tourists have spent an amount of 43 milliards of mexican pesos in the city of Mexico. Mexico city has been the main destination in 2010, even exceeding the tourists resorts of Cancun, Riviera Maya or Acapulco. He said that the travel of these tourists has created an employment of 891 810 people, 21 792 superior in number than 2009. The occupation rate of the hotels was 53% in Mexico City in 2010, much better than 2009 by 13%.

Meztizos”(mixed European and Indian descent) are open minded and friendly. Indians are more reserved and might be suspicious regarding foreign people visiting their communities.

Be patient ; Mexicans are not the champions of punctuality !

Overall, Mexicans are friendly and welcoming. In all negotiations, stay polite and diplomatic. A smile never hurts anyone! Bus transportation is an excellent way for meeting Mexicans. They will be pleased to help you.


The number one rule for any trip is to respect the culture of the country you are visiting. It is common sense. Wearing shorts or sleeveless T- shirts is not appropriate while visiting churches or mosques or temples. Learning a few basic words in Spanish will help you to start conversations.

    Above picture : Hammocks of Yucatán

Address - ORIENTATION ?

Zócalo of Mexico City

Mexican cities are built with an American grid. However, designations such as : “Street” or “Avenue” is usually not posted on addresses and street signs. Streets are referred to only by names, such as : « Porfirio Diaz 65 », « Insurgentes 4834”. Often, the name of the street is given between (entre) such and such streets or at the corner (esquiña) of another street. Ex: Juana de Arco, entre Lord Byron y Tolstoi, or Zamora 36 esq Pachuca.

You could be given the directions by “cuadras”. They are blocks.
The main routes, which cross the city, are not named with names of avenues but have numbers coupled by compass directions : N for Norte (North), S for Sur (South), Ote for Orient (East) and Pte for Poniente (West).

It is not always easy to get oriented, especially in Mexico City. Hopefully, there are tall buildings you can use as landmarks, such as the “Gran Hotel of Mexico”, the Pemex and Mexican Towers and downtown, on Eje Central (the main route which cuts the city in two parts), the Latino Americano Tower.

In every city of Mexico, the central place is called “Zócalo”.

      Right picture : Zócalo of Mexico City

International information for Mexico: 3212 (US$6 cost of the call). Consult the yellow pages in Mexico :

Classes

Taking classes in Mexico could be an excellent way to meet people and learn more about the local life, while learning the language and the culture of the country.

Many students come to attend a short term Spanish class, but the Mexican Universities also have classes that could complete the programme you attend in your own country. To have a long study stay in Mexico, you need a student visa. Inquire with the Mexican consulate for the requirements :


Annoyances and dangers

Mexico is a safe country, overall. You could take the subway at 11:00 pm and taxis without any trouble. However, there has been an increase in crime involving pick pocketing of foreigners. Tourists can be easy prey especially in the subway, a taxi, in markets and on the streets after sunset. Just use your common sense; don’t display your camera or wallet. Avoid carrying all your money. Use the safety deposit box in the hotel. In Mexico City, avoid carrying a credit card at night but keep enough money to give to a potential assailant who would be neither nice nor patient. It could be dangerous to fight back as the assailant may be on drugs.

We advise single women not to go on isolated beaches. Call the tourist police in case of trouble. Show your documents but never leave them.

You should know about the political situation in Chiapas and the existing tensions between different communities. For a few years, there has been a lot of tension in Oaxaca and Guerrero areas. See the web site: www.sipaz.org (in different languages).
The SIPAZ is a program of international observation created in 1995 to follow-up on the conflict in Chiapas after the uprising of 1994. It encourages the search for peaceful solutions and the construction of a culture of peace, dialogue and tolerance between the political actors in Chiapas, and more recently in the other regions (States of Oaxaca and Guerrero).

Time zones

vegetable market in the area of Oaxaca

Mexico has three time zones :

The zone between Mexico City and Yucatán is on Central Standard Time. Baja California South, Sonora, Nayarit and Sinaloa are on Mountain Standard Time and Baja California North is on Pacific Standard Time.

Mexico observes daylight saving time in accordance with the USA and Canada, starting in 2007 at 2 a.m every year, on the first sunday in April to 2 a.m. on the last sunday of October.

Left picture : vegetable market in the area of Oaxaca



Customs

When entering Mexico, you are required to complete a customs declaration form (which lists authorized products). After completing the form, you’ll have to step up to a machine and push a button. If a green light is displayed, you can pass without inspection. If the light is red, your luggage will be searched. Maximum amount authorized goods : 2 L of alcoholic beverages, 400 cigarettes and about 325 USD$ of other possessions. Warning : do not cheat because you could have high fines if the custom officers find non-declared objects.



glass of Tequila Drugs

The law concerning the use of drugs is very severe. Drug offenses are punishable in Mexico from 2 to 8 years imprisonment for transporting, possessing, purchasing and disposing (selling or giving) narcotics with a fine from 3445 to 17225 Mexican pesos.
Be really on guard. Never take care of a bag or package for anyone. Verify that labels on tickets correspond to labels put on luggage.
Certain medicines, as well as syringes, can be viewed as suspicious. Carry with you the original boxes and prescriptions for all medicines. Also, have the medical certificate or prescription with you for syringes.

Under the Mexican Penal Code, drug offenders are not eligible for parole.


      

Right picture : glass of Tequila

 


Electricity

Mexican electric current is 110v/60hz with American style plugs.


Ethnic group

Mexican people are a multi-ethnic group. The majority of Mexicans (60%) are ”Meztizos” of mixed Europeans and Native American descent. There is a minority of Indians with 57 different ethnic groups and about 100 different languages.


Business hours



Market on Oaxaca Area Businesses usually operate Monday-Saturday from 9-10AM until 7- 8PM.
In the South of the country as well as in small towns, businesses close from 2PM to 4PM for the “siesta” (nap) and open again until 9PM. Some stores close on Saturday afternoon but you can find a lot of stores open even on Sunday in big resorts and shopping malls. Supermarkets and Department Stores welcome customers every day from
9-10AM to 10PM.

Left picture : Market on Oaxaca Area

Offices hours are Monday-Friday from 9AM to 2PM and 4PM to 7PM (with Lunch break from 2 to 4PM).
Administration is usually closed to the public after lunch. The Departments related to tourism are open on Saturday from 9AM to 1PM.


Restaurants open at 7- 8AM (9AM downtown) and close between 10 and 12PM. The closing day (when there is one) is usually Sunday or Monday or Tuesday.
Coffee shops open every day from 8-10AM to 8-10PM. Bars open every day with different schedules.

Markets open from 7-8AM to 7PM

Museums are closed on Monday and are open Tuesday-Sunday at different hours (check carefully each museum). Some are free one day a week. We can’t give exact schedules and fees because they change several times a year. Usually the tarifs are between $10 pesos and $100 pesos. Some are free.

Languages

The official language of Mexico is Spanish. There are almost 300 different dialects, with half of them in State of Oaxaca.

You will be spoken to in Spanish in most of the tourist areas. About 5 million Mexicans can speak another language. 80% of Indians are bilingual, 20% can’t speak Spanish and have trouble communicating outside their ethnic group.

Even being close to the USA, English is not that popular except in big cities and tourist resorts. It is recommended to try to speak Spanish. And remember that being polite and respectful towards the hosting people is the best way to be welcome. Mexicans have a lot of pride in their heritage and language.


craft store Laundries



The “lavanderias” will wash, dry and fold your clothes for 25-30 Mexican pesos/kg. You’ll have to pay extra for ironing.
There are self-service laundries in most of the tourist cities.

 


      Right picture : craft store





Photography


Print film is widely available throughout Mexico. Film processing is quite expensive so it is better to wait to do it until you are back home. Bring extra memory cards for your digital camera because they are expensive in Mexico. Also, bring an extra battery for your camera. If you use rechargeable batteries, insure that your battery charger is compatible with 110v/60hz with an American style plug. Use discretion when photographing Mexicans in traditional costumes. It is always best to ask their permission.



back from market
Left picture : back from market

 

Weights and measures

Mexico uses the metric system and decimal system. The distances are in kilometers, the surfaces in hectares and the weights in kilos.

 

 

 

 


  Legal matters - Mexican law

In case of implication in an offense, all foreigners are liable to the local courts and the punishments envisaged by Mexican law. If the police decide that an offense has been committed, they will turn the accused over to the Agente del Ministerio Publico, the equivalent of a district attorney in the United States. The Agente, or district attorney, conducts a preliminary investigation to determine whether the case can be prosecuted. If he decides that it can, he has 48 hours to notify the accused of the name of his accuser, and the nature of the charges against him, take his preliminary statement and inform him of his right to legal counsel. After that, he will turn the accused over to a judge.
Once an individual has been assigned to a judge, that judge has 72 hours to decide if he will proceed with the case and arraign the arrestee. It is at that point that the detainee will be asked for a formal declaration of guilt or innocence. Once the accused has been arraigned, the judge has a further 72 hours to decide to issue a formal order of imprisonment or drop the charges and release the prisoner.
In case of arrest, you should inform your Consulate. Never sign a document in Spanish unless you are fluent and you know full well the possible implications of signing such a document.


Safety

ROBBERIES AND CRIMES : Mexico is not a dangerous country for tourists but stay vigilant. Don’t stroll alone by night in non-tourist areas. Never drive after dark. Use taxis parked at reserved spots, especially at airports, outside of discotheques and tourist areas. Crime is rising in Mexico City, Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez as well as purse snatching. Be careful. Before leaving, inform yourself about the risks of danger in some areas like Chiapas or Oaxaca.
Be aware of HURRICANES: Thanks to the media, we can be warned. Follow the instructions - American site : www.nhc.noaa.gov
Be aware of EARTHQUAKES: Don’t run down the stairs or use the elevator. Stay away from windows. Stay calm. Site of the seismological service of Mexico : www.ssn.unam.mx.
Case of EMERGENCY : Police   080 / Cruz Roja (red cross) 55 55 57 57 57 / Tourist hot line in Mexico.
(52) 55 52 50 01 23 or 55 52 50 01 51 or from outside D.F   01- 800 903 9200. This service provides 24-hour help all year long.


Travel with babies and children

It is easy to travel to Mexico with children (no problem in most hotels and restaurants). You can find baby food in supermarkets in big cities as well as in pharmacies. Use powdered milk with sealed bottles of water. Different sized diapers can be found in pharmacies. Both babies and children could be more affected than adults by altitude (Mexico City is at 7347 feet (2240m) elevation). Heat, air conditioning, change of food or a different rhythm in their sleep patterns can also affect children and babies. They need time to acclimate. Take care of them to avoid sunburn and dehydration. Be sure children and babies are given plenty of water. In average or higher category hotels, you most likely will be able to find high chairs and beds for babies. If you want to rent a car with a child seat (extra cost/day), use an international car rental company.
Parents who want to go out at night can easily find a baby sitter. Just ask at the hotel desk. It is easy to find baby products but if you are used to specific brands, bring along your diapers, lotions, creams, baby food or medicines. It is not usual to breast feed in public, but be discrete if you need to do it.
On regular international and domestic flights, babies up to 2 years of age pay 10% of the fare (if they don’t have a seat) and for children between the age of 2 and 11, the fare is 67% of the regular fare. Be aware that with the new low cost carriers recently launched in Mexico, the rules are different. On buses, children under 13 pay half price on long distance trips and the little one who can sit on the lap of their parents will travel free.

What to see, what to do ?

Besides the obvious attractions like beaches and swimming pools, there are many places to visit with children in Mexico. Amusement parks, aquatic parks, museums, zoos and aquariums in big cities or tourist resorts like Merida, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco are a few choices. You could also visit museums or sites especially for children : La feria de Chapultepec in Mexico City (the oldest amusement park in Mexico), Papalote Museum (Museo del niño/ Children Museum) which is also in Chapultepec Park, has 350 exhibits focusing on science, history and art and filled with educational experiences for children of all ages. The Yum-ka reserve, 18km from Villahermosa, the” Zoológico Miguel Alvarez del Toro” in Tuxtla, the African Safari Park close to Puebla and the “Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga” in Mazunte are other good places to visit with children.

cenote in Yucatán
Tobacco

Smokers can choose between 30 Mexican brands of cigarettes, most of them from mixed soft tobacco. Except for 2 brands, all cigarettes are with filters. You can find all sorts of Virginia cigarettes everywhere, even in the pharmacies. The “delicados” and “faros” are the closest to the French Brown tobaccos.
Mexico produces excellent cigars in the San Andres Valley in Veracruz State. The best ones are the Monte Cristo and the Ornelas, which compete with Cuban cigars when you compare the quality/price ratio.


 Left picture : cenote in Yucatán



Clothes

Casual clothes, if not eccentric, will fit any occasion. It is common sense to wear swimming suits only on beaches or at swimming pools. Shorts should not be worn in holy places. Mexicans are sensitive to the way you are dressed. Avoid provocative clothes.

Toilets

There are more public toilets than before. They are usually clean. You should pay around $10. Use mainly the ones in hotels, restaurants, bus stations and museums. It would be wise to have toilet paper in your pocket since it is not always supplied. The plumbing may not be designed to receive toilet paper; in this case use the wastebasket where you are supposed to place used toilet paper.

Conduct

Be patient. Accept the differences in Mexican culture, especially about schedules and time. For Mexicans, relationships are very important. They don’t know how to say “no” and they would promise you something even if they know they won’t be able to do it.
Don’t refuse an invitation. That could send a wrong message. In Indian culture it could be considered an insult. Don’t hesitate to send your hosts a picture as a souvenir. They will be happy you did so.
Bargaining is expected in craft stores and markets. However, don’t forget that the sellers are poor. Tips are expected also-10-15% is OK. Waiters won’t ask, but will be pleased to get tips.


Disabled travelers

Mexico is not well equipped for the mobility impaired.

Consult this web site to get some helpful information :
www.apf.asso.fr
www.yanous.com
www.handica.com
www.access-able.com



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