Frequently Asked Questions

Check out this FAQs page for the answers to some of the most asked questions about Mexico.

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The United Mexican States
The capital of México is México City, also known as Distrito Federal (the Federal District), corresponding to Washington, D.C. in the U.S.. It annually vies with Tokyo, Japan, as the world's largest city. The exact population of the city, itself is 15 million, according to the 2010 census. But that of the metropolitan area is somewhere around 26 million. The city is divided into 16 delegaciones (similar to the boroughs of New York City) are governed by elected delegados who are responsible for garbage collection, patching potholes, etc. But the city also has various colonias, or neighborhoods. It stands in the Valley of México at an altitude of 7,500 feet, surrounded by active and inactive volcanoes.
The country is divided into 31 states plus the Distrito Federal--Aguascalientes, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, México, Michoacán de Ocampo, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz-Llave, Yucatan, and Zacatecas.
México obtained its independence from Spain on September 16, 1810, approving its latest Constitution on February 5, 1917. México's legal system is a mixture of U.S. constitutional theory and Napoleonic civil law with judicial review of legislative acts. The Constitution provides for a federal republic operating under a centralized government.
The Mexican flag has three equal vertical bands of green, white, and red. The coat of arms--an eagle perched on a cactus, devouring a snake--is taken from an Aztec legend.
The Mexican currency is the Peso Mexicano (Mexican peso) or plural pesos. Approximately 12 pesos equal one U.S. dollar.
México is located in Mesoamerica (Middle America), bordering the Caribbean Sea , the Gulf of México and the Pacific Ocean, between Belize and Guatemala and the US. México has a total area of nearly two million square km (slightly less than three times the size of Texas). Its diverse landscape features high, rugged mountains, low coastal plains, high plateaus, and desert. The highest elevation is the volcano Pico de Orizaba (5,700 m). But it's true wealth comes from its natural resources, including petroleum, silver, copper, gold, lead, zinc, natural gas, and timber.
México enjoys just about every type of climatic condition, from the dry, clear air of deserts and semi-arid high plateaus, to the rain-forest-like humidity in the State of Chiapas to the south. Its complicated terrain, varied altitudes (nearly half of the country is above 5,000 feet ), and the influence of adjacent seas and oceans makes for diverse climatic conditions.
Most of the country is exceptionally dry, particularly in the northern regions and the Baja Peninsula. Southern México and the Yucatan Peninsula experience pronounced rainfall, with areas of the State of Chiapas tallying some 200 inches of annual precipitation. As in most tropical regions, México has two weather seasons: rainy and dry. Generally rains fall and temperatures rise from June through October, leaving November through May as the more temperate, drier season.
México is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world and the second most-populous country in Latin America after Portuguese-speaking Brazil. According to the latest statistics, México's total population is close to 112 million and it is growing at a rate of 1.77 percent per year. Mestizos (those of Indian and Spanish blood) makes up 60 percent of the population, followed by indigenous peoples (30 percent), whites (9 percent), and other ethnic minorities (1 percent).
About 70 percent of Mexicans live in urban areas. Many emigrate from rural areas that lack job opportunities, such as the underdeveloped southern states and the crowded central plateau, to the industrialized urban centers--México City, Guadalajara, Puebla, and Monterrey--and the developing areas along the U.S._México border--Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. According to some estimates, the population of the area around México City is close to 26 million, putting it in competition with Tokyo as the most populated city in the world
At least 89 percent of Mexicans are Roman Catholic, while 6 percent is Protestant. A growing number are Pentecostal.
Although Spanish is the most widely spoken language in México, there are over 60 indigenous languages and dialects, including Mayan (the ancient language of the Maya) and Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs), spoken as the every day language in many places in México.
This depends on which country in which your visit originates. If you are from the U.S. or Canada, you will need your passport or notarized birth certificate with state issued ID. You will also need a tourist card unless you are traveling for less than 72 hours within the border zone (usually no further than 20 miles south of the U.S. border except in Baja California and Sonora which have extended their zones). If you are from any other country, you will need to check with the Mexican Embassy or Consulate nearest you (the New York Consulate has a detailed list of requirements on their website). More info here.
Starting January 27, 2007, the U.S. State Department will require a passport for all travel to and from Mexico by AIRLINE. If traveling on foot, by car or boat, including cruise ship or ferry, the passport requirement will not come into effect until after January 2008.
At present, the Government of Mexico requires that all U.S. citizens present proof of citizenship and photo identification for entry into Mexico, such as a combination of a birth certificate and driver's license. However, some U.S. citizens have encountered difficulty in boarding flights in Mexico without a passport. More info here.
Yes you can. You'll need to make sure you pet has documentation of recent rabbies shots, and be sure to have a Certificate of Good Health from your Vet to make sure you don't have any problems getting back into the US with your pet. More info here.
There are regulations for bringing in pharmaceuticals from Mexico, however they are changing on a constant basis. Although many drugs in Mexico are available over the counter at a pharmacy, certain prescription drugs in Mexico do require a prescription from a Mexican pharmacist, and foreigners have been known to purchase them from people not authorized to issue them. You can be arrested in Mexico if caught buying drugs without the proper prescription and the penalties are stiff, up to 25 years in jail in Mexico.
According to the U.S. Customs, to bring back prescription drugs into the U.S. you must have a prescription written by a physician licensed in the United States, have it in its original packaging and carry no more than a three-month supply AND you must declare them. If you are caught trying to bring in drugs without the above requirements you can be stopped, have your good confiscated and may be arrested.
Yes, with some limitations. In the "restricted zone" along the coast or borders, you can purchase land or property through a trust called a Fideicomiso, which is held by a bank in Mexico for up to 50 years and can be renewed and passed on to heirs. Property in the interior may be purchased "fee simple", meaning you get the title direct. When dealing with real estate, always cross-check everything to make sure the property and owners are legitimate, and there is clear title. Do your research. More info here.
Eighteen (18) for all citizens and visitors to Mexico. You must have valid ID in the form of a passport or driver's license. Mexico has strict laws about drinking in public and public drunkeness, so don't use the lower drinking age as an excuse to forget your common sense.
There are no required inoculations for travel to Mexico. Resort areas and popular ancient sites in Mexico are pretty low risk areas. If birding in Mexico is your passion, come prepared with insect repellent as most of the beautiful exotic birds roost in swampy wetlands and tropical jungle. Although natural insect repellents are available, unfortunately DEET works best.
If you are planning to channel Indiana Jones, however, and are off to hack through deep jungle in southern Quintana Roo close to Belize or Guatemala, have a chat with your doctor about taking malaria tablets.
Preventive medical care in Mexico for senior travelers should include shots against Hepatitis A, which is common in Mexico, and typhoid.
Hepatitis A vaccine should be administered 2-4 weeks before departure and oral tablets against typhoid taken until completed. If there is a lot of time to be spent outdoors in remote areas and in activities that might bring you into contact with animals and bats, tetanus and rabies shots are essential.
Check to see if your insurance carrier will pay for medical care in Mexico. Otherwise, plan to buy extended medical coverage. For older travelers with chronic high-risk conditions, Skymed has insurance for emergency air transport between hospitals in the US and Mexico. Short-term policies exist for trips between 4-14 days. Frequent travelers or longer-term visitors should consider policies for 1, 3 and 5 years.
When you are admitted to private medical care in Mexico, you will need to pay upfront for services, and get reimbursement from your insurance carrier on your return.
Most pharmacies in the towns and villages stay open 24 hours. Many travelers seek to buy prescription medication in Mexico as the prices are generally lower.
The quality of the pharmaceuticals has been called into question; shop smart by buying brand names, even if for less of a discount, from large chain store pharmacies. Just be aware the US border officials may come down hard on large quantities of prescription drugs unless you have a doctor's letter on hand.
Did you know that Mexican nationals get sick on our water?
Bottled water is readily available throughout the country, and by law, ice must be purified. We recommend you brush your teeth in bottled water, and forget singing in the shower.
Taco stands located on most streets in Mexico may not be safe because it is difficult to know how long the food may have been sitting out or how fresh it may be. It smells wonderful, though.
If you request your meals be served hot, and avoid fresh salads (that may not have been washed in bottled water) you probably won't experience any unnecessary problems. Many tourists get sick because they drink too much tequila.
Mexico has a wonderful array of fresh fruits and vegetables, and if you are going to be in the country for any length of time, you will want to shop at the mercados and peel the fruits or boil vegetables.