Improve Your Mexico Adventure: Eight Tips

Girl walks down Mexican street. 1. Get off the beaten path. Even if you plan on spending your entire vacation in a tourist hot spot like Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan, it’s easy enough to step off the tourist trail and experience authentic Mexico. Ask a cab driver to take you to his favorite taqueria, or just keep walking until Señor Frog recedes into the distance.

2. Pack a few nicer items of clothing. Mexico is a dressy country. When you’re invited to a fiesta or out on the town with the locals, show respect by ditching your flip-flops.

3. Talk to the locals. Even if your Spanish sucks, most people will appreciate your effort and your friendliness. This is also the best way to really get to know a place and discover the best food (always our #1 priority).

4. Order a torta. Don’t be afraid to eat at street stands, market stalls, and hole-in-the-wall joints. You will find the most authentic and certainly the cheapest food by eating at comedors and taquerias.

5. Leave your travelers checks and large US bills at home. No one accepts traveler’s checks and, due to a recent change in law, it’s harder to find places that will accept or change US dollars. ATM is now the best way to access money in Mexico. You may want to consider bringing a back-up card and stashing it in a separate bag. See here for more info on Mexican ATMs.

6. Don’t walk around looking like you think you are going to get mugged or kidnapped at any moment. Paranoia is self-fulfilling. The more you act confident and friendly (within reason), the more people will accept that you know where you are and what you are doing.

7. If you’re traveling by bus, go high class. Unless you need to get dropped off at an obscure location that doesn’t have a major bus station (small towns are often only serviced by second class or regular first class lines), it’s worth a few extra dollars to get on one of Mexico’s super luxury liner buses: Primera Plus, ADO, or ETN, to name a few.

8. Smile. It sounds cheesy, but it works.

6 Responses to “Improve Your Mexico Adventure: Eight Tips”

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  1. Mike Huckaby says:

    RIght on Churpa with #4. Eat street food, even if you have to start out at a crowded cart, to break into the scene. Tasty, homemade, 24-7, and friendly. And a great way to learn spanish words for cactus pads, and such.

  2. Eleisha says:

    Great post! I am living in Playa Del Carmen now and just walking around further away from main area of gringo central is very refreshing. I have stumbled across some more authentically mexican areas and met some beautiful people.

  3. -El Codo- says:

    Totopos (corn chips) YUCK!

    Instead of reaching for that sack of Pancho Villa corn chips (the one with a quarter pound of salt included at no extra cost), head for the TOSTADA shelf. Round corn discs that taste like corn and not rancid cornmeal. Break the discs into whatever size you wish and spoil yourself. The taste improvement is astonishing and you’ll give salt bulldozers a rest.

  4. Jaimetown says:

    Great advice (as always), Churpa! I also like to do a little advance research on the area I’m planning to explore so I don’t miss out on any of the regional specialties. It would be a tragedy not to try a Torta Ahogada in Guadalajara or Chiles en Nogada if you’re in Puebla for El Grito de Dolores or (especially) sampling a fine mezcal in Oaxaca. Also, knowing the favorite equipo de futbol in the area is always a good conversation starter. Of course, the People’s Guide should always be the first reference source before any trip south o’ the border!
    ¡Que tengas un buen día!

  5. churpa says:

    Yes to all of that! And igualmente!

  6. -El Codo- says:

    Here’s a recommendation for Mazatlan that Steve and I agreed on many years ago…

    Mazatlan, has a city block size enclosed mercado municipal. It also has fondas but they’re sort of hidden but well worth rooting out.

    Establish your compass bearing before entering. The reason being, the fondas are on the 2nd floor but the mercado only has a tiny 2nd floor area. Within the south west corner of the mercado is a flight of stairs. At the top you’ll find eight or nine fondas offering different delicious comidas de dia (comidas corridas). Check the all out, but I like the fondas on the outside wall. They have tiny verandas and a diner can take lunch outside and watch for peregrine falcons feasting on a seemingly unlimited number of pigeons. High on the sides of adjacent buildings are their nests.

    The fondas offer genuine comidas as can be found anywhere in the country. With prices to match.