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Regions and climates
Although Mexico is pleasant to visit during the whole year, the months most frequented by tourists, both local and foreign, are July, August, Christmas’ and Easter’s holidays. However, the best time to visit Mexico goes from December to end of August (just avoid September and October). The climate of Mexico is mostly hot and humid with typically maritime features in coastal areas, becoming more arid moving to the north. The temperature decreases when the altitude increase and considering the altitude average of the country, when moving away from coastal areas the average daily temperature range can significantly vary. Tropical cyclones lead heavy rains in summer and at the beginning of the autumn, with the greatest incidence in the second half of August and in October. In Mexico City, Oaxaca and San Cristobal during the winter, from January to March, temperatures can drop significantly, even if only for short periods. On the coast and in the area of Palenque is hot almost all year round.
Domestic flights in Mexico are no longer cheap as it was in the past, but it still offers a convenient way to move, especially considering that the alternative way to travel is a hot and endless bus trip. In recent years, major airlines left many domestic routes to smaller companies, who don’t provide a very regular schedule.
Buses are the most popular means of transport thanks to an extensive network of connections. The long-distance buses are fairly comfortable, have air conditioning and are quite fast. The buses that goes along on minor routes in rural areas are generally decrepit vehicles, quite battered and devoid of suspensions, that agony in search of a dignified death along the dirt roads. The minibuses used for local connections are called combi, colectivos or peseros.
The only trip that we suggest you to do by train is the Ferrocarril Chihuaca al Pacifico that connects Mochis to Chihuaha, renowned also as the Copper Canyon Railway: it’s one of the major attraction of the country thanks to the breathtaking panorama.
The coastal areas and the islands of the country (especially the Atlantic and the Caribbean coasts) in the period from June to October are interested from possible storm phenomena (tropical storms, hurricanes and so on). Organized and common crimes are increasing rapidly all over the country, especially in Mexico City and other large cities (Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua and Morelia) and also in the State of Chiapas and in some areas frequented by a lot of tourists, including those of Cancun in Quintana Roo State and Acapulco in the State of Guerrero, for this reason keep always your eyes open, even if the status of "foreign tourist" is still a deterrent to many criminals.
Currency and payment methods
The official currency of Mexico is the Mexican Peso. The Peso is divided into 100 centavos, with coins of 5, 10, 20, 50 centavos and 1, 2, 5 10 and 20 pesos. There are banknotes of 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 pesos. ATMs are widespread in Mexico, they are the easiest way to get money and you can withdraw with major credit cards and some bank cards, such as the Cirrus and Plus. You can change cash and travelers' cheque in the banks and in the exchange offices. Compared to the latter, banks are slower and usually observe a shorter time (usually same of the offices), while the exchange offices, that you can find in all cities, are fast and often open in the evening or on weekends. However, some exchange offices don’t accept travelers' cheque, unlike the banks. Exchange rates slightly vary from one bank to another or depending on the daily exchange rate, moreover the cash is more convenient than the travelers’ cheque. If you have trouble to find a place to change money, especially on weekends, you can always refer to your hotel, keeping in mind that the exchange rate will not be very favorable.
What to bring
From November to March, light clothing preferably in natural fibers or for beach journeys; mid-season clothing, woolen clothes, jacket or vest to Mexico City and to "tierras templadas". For the rest of the year summer clothes, some woolen clothes, a light raincoat (always on hand for sudden downpours) or windbreaker.
Time and visa
The time zone is from 6 to 8 hours less than UTC. Visa is not necessary for citizens coming from many American countries and from Western Europe. When arriving in Mexico, you’ll get a touristic visa, that generally has a validity of 90 days.
Don’t believe a Mexican who tells that a dish is slightly spicy. Spicy food is very frequent, so it’s better to taste the sauces – green or red- before adding profusely to the plate! Much of today's Mexican food is based on pre-Hispanic traditions, including Aztec and Maya, combined with a culinary style that was introduced by Spanish settlers. The Quesadillas, for example, are "tortilla" made of flour or corn with cheese (usually a soft Mexican cheese like Queso Blanco), beef, chicken, pork and more: the indigenous heritage of this plate and of many other dishes is the chili pepper (chili). Thanks to the rich variety of vegetables (including peppers, green peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and radishes) and the meat the dishes are very colorful in Mexico. The Mexican food vary from region to region because of the climatic, geographic and ethnic differences, geographic and last but not least, depending on the more or the less Hispanic influence. The northern part of Mexico is known for its beef production, for this reason its cuisine is characterized by meat dishes. The south, on the other hand, is known for dishes with spicy vegetables and chicken. Among the drinks, you can’t miss: tequila, pulcre and mezcal.
For travelers coming to Mexico vaccines are not requested. Gastric diseases are very frequent, as the travelers are not used to the local food or sometimes don’t take precautions. It’s recommended to not drink water from the tap but only bottled water without ice. Don’t eat icecream, water ice, raw food or not fully cooked, especially meat or fish. If possible prefer hot dishes. Bring anti-diarrhea medicines and carefully wash hand before eating.
Full name of the country: United Mexican States
Territory: 1.972.550 km2
Population: 111.211.789 inhabitants
Capital: Mexico City (8.681.400 inhabitants, 21.233.900 inhabitants in the metropolitan area)
Population: 60% mestizo (indigenous and European) and 30% indigenous descendants from autochthonous populations as nahua, maya, zapotec, mixtec, totonac and tarascos or purépecha, 9% white (mostly of Spanish origin), 1% other.
Languages: Spanish (official), Amerindian idioms (nàhuatl, maya, mixtec)
Religion: 89% Catholic, 6% Protestant
Government: Federal Republic
President: Felipe Calderón (2006)
Books and movies
BOOKS > Among the Mexican writers, we suggest you Angeles Mastretta with her “Arrancame la vida” and “Mujeres de ojos grandes”, Laura Esquivel with her “Like Water for Chocolate” and Subcomandante Marcos with his works about the Zapatist world in Chiapas. In Italian, Cacucci is the best writer whose books can communicate the “Mexicanity”, a book that should be read before and during the trip is “La polvere del Messico”.
MOVIES > Iñarittu’s movies have been the most renowned in the last years, as “Amores perros”, “21 grams”, “Babel” and “Biutiful”. Don’t miss also “The Exterminating Angel” by Luis Buñuel, “The Holy Mountain” by Jodorowsky and the recent movies “Frida”, “Traffic”, “The Faun’s Labyrinth”, “Y tu mama también”, “Like Water for Chocolate” and “The Crime of Padre Amaro”. There’s also “Puerto Econdido” by Gabriele Salvatores and “Viva San Isidro” in Italian.