Mexico doesn’t have an official language per se but Spanish is the national language de facto.
The official name is United Mexican States, commonly known as Mexico. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and one federal state. Its capital is Mexico City.
To the north, Mexico is bordered by the United States, to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean and to the south east by Guatemala, Belize and the Caribbean Sea while to the east by Gulf Mexico.
Mexico uses three time zones. Most of the country is on Central Standard Time (CST). Daylight savings time is observed and starts on April 6, 2008 and ends on October 26.
The states of Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Nayarit, Sonora and Sinaloa are on Mountain Standard Time (MST; GMT-7). Daylight savings time is observed, except for the state of Sonora, and starts on March 9, 2008 and ends of November 2.
The state of Baja California Norte is on Pacific Standard Time (PST). Daylight saving time is observed. The dates are similar as the ones for MST.
Counting and Numbers
Dates in Mexico, are written with the day first, then the month, then the year. Hence, 02/03/08 is the 2nd of March in the year 2008.
With written numbers, commas and decimal points are swapped from what you might be used to in the US. So, twenty pesos and thirty centavos is written Mex$ 20,30 and three thousand five hundred pesos is written Mex$ 3.500.
Mexico uses the Metric system for measurements and Celsius for temperatures.
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You can find a conversion tool here.
Electricity and plugs
The power supply in Mexico is 110 V/ 60 Hz. The plugs used are similar to those used in Northern America and Japan: two flat prongs, with a hole near the tip. That means, if you travel from US or Canada to Mexico you won’t need an adapter to use your electric appliances. But if you come from Europe you will need both an adapter and a transformer.
The official currency is Mexican Peso (MXN). It’s divided into 100 Centavos. The symbol used is $, exactly the same as the one used for American Dollar. Denominations include the frequent used coins: 50 centavos, 1 peso, 2 pesos, 5 pesos and 10 pesos; the less frequent used coins: 5, 10 and 20 centavos, 20, 50 and 100 pesos and the 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 pesos banknotes.
Check this conversion rate tool before planning your vacation.
Banks and ATMs
Banking hours in Mexico are from Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM. Some banks might be open for longer and some are open on Saturdays as well.
Credit cards aren’t accepted as widely as you are used to in US and Europe. However, Mastercard and Visa are accepted on a larger scale than American Express. Many companies would make a 5% extra charge on credit card transactions which might just make you want to use cash.
There are ATMs in every major tourist city and location but not all cards are accepted.
Traveler’s cheques are also accepted (US$, Euro or Pound Sterling). At exchange houses you’ll get a better exchange rate than at the hotel or bank.
Make sure to check with your bank before leaving and decide which the best alternative to use is.
Using the telephone
The country code for Mexico is 52. To call Mexico from the U.S., you will first need to dial out of the U.S. and then into Mexico – so that is 011 + 52 and then the phone number itself (using the local area code). To call a Mexican number from within Mexico, simply dial the local number as you have it. To call the U.S. from within Mexico, dial 00 + 1 and then the area code and telephone number.
More and more travelers prefer to bring their cell phones and either active the roaming facility or slip in a local SIM to take advantage of the local fares. To do that, you need a phone which is unlocked for international use.
Caution is advised when trying to make a call from a public phone in Mexico. There are numerous rip offs, some charging as much as US$ 20/minute! Also be careful when you buy cards on the street since many vendors would try to take advantage of the exchange rate.
Useful telephone numbers
Ambulance: 5557-5757 (Red Cross)
Fire Dept: 5768-8261
Police: 060 & 080
Tourist Assistance (free from anywhere in Mexico): 01 (800) 903-9200
Tourist Cards are available only for people entering Mexico for holiday, health, artistic purposes, which aren’t lucrative. Visitors from the eligible countries may be issued the Tourist Card either by any Mexican Consulate or at the point of entry in Mexico. The card must be kept for the duration of stay and must be presented when leaving the country.
Nationals of the following countries are eligible for the Tourist Card:
- EU countries for stays of up to 180 days (except nationals of Austria, France, Greece and Luxembourg who can stay for up to 90 days);
- Australia, Canada, Japan and the USA for stays of up to 180 days;
- Andorra, Argentina, Bermuda, Chile, Costa Rica, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Switzerland and Uruguay for stays of up to 180 days;
- Czech Republic, Israel, Monaco and Poland for up to 90 days;
- Korea (Rep. of) for up to 60 days;
- Venezuela for up to 30 days.
Tourists need a passport valid for at least 6 months and they also need to show their return ticket and proof of sufficient funds if staying for up to 6 months.