Mexico is a Spanish-speaking country of 109 million that is about three times the size of Texas, consisting of 31 states and one federal district. Over 50 languages and dialects are spoken through the country. Mexico has a rapidly developing economy, ranked by the World Bank as the twelfth largest in the world.
People and society:
The great majority of its people are mestizos who are of mixed European and Indian ancestry and about all of them speak Spanish, The official flag features three colored stripes; green for independence, white for religion and red for union.
As late as the early 19th century, Native Americans accounted for nearly two-thirds of the population in the region. During that century, however, the racial composition of the country began to change from one that featured distinct European (Spanish) and indigenous populations, to one made up largely of mestizos-people of mixed Spanish and Native American descent. By the end of the 19th century, mestizos, who were discriminated against during three centuries of Spanish colonization, had become the largest population group in Mexico. Mestizos now account for about 60 percent of Mexicans.
Indigenous peoples account for 30 percent of the population, and people of European ancestry, primarily Spanish, account for about nine percent of the population. During the colonial era, many Native Americans and mestizos adopted the Spanish language, and were converted to Roman Catholicism, the religion of the Spanish colonizers. The vast majority of Mexicans, about 90 percent, are Catholic. restrictions on the Catholic Church and other religions.
The climate ranges from tropical to desert, and the terrain consists of coastal lowlands, central high plateaus, and mountains of up to 18,000 feet. From May to September, the coastal and low-lying regions, especially in the southern half of Mexico, are fairly hot and humid. These are the months of highest rainfall and highest temperatures almost everywhere. The interior of the country has a more temperate climate than the coasts. July and August are peak holiday months for both Mexicans and foreigners. Other big holiday seasons are mid-December to early January (for foreigners and Mexicans) and a week either side of Easter, known as Semana De Santa (for Mexicans). At these times the coastal resorts attract big tourist crowds, room prices go up in popular places, and accommodations and public transportation can be heavily booked, so advance reservations are advisable.
Approximately 70% of the GDP in Mexico is in service based industries, of which tourism is a major part. 15-20 million foreign visitors a year bring billions in of foreign exchange. PeMex, the country’s nationalized oil industry, provides approximately 40% of federal government revenue.
Mexico’s currency is the peso. The current exchange rate is $13.55 MN to one US dollar. The peso is divided into 100 centavos. Coins come in denominations of 20 and 50 centavos and one, two, five, 10, 20 and 100 pesos. There are notes of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 pesos. The best way to convert your home currency into pesos is via the multitude of ATM’s found in the majority of towns in Mexico and almost always ensure the best exchange rate.
Things to do:
Copper Canyon – Six times larger than the Grand Canyon, come see the amazing Raramuri indigenous people and the natural grandeur.
Palenque – Travel through the jungles of Mexico’s most southern state, Chiapas, to this most beautiful of the Mayan city-states.
Oaxaca - Amazing colonial city with great crafts, great ruins and great food
Playa del Carmen – Europe in Mexico. Great dining, beautiful beaches, easy access to Tulum, Cozumel, and Cancun, and great nightlife.
Puerto Escondido – World class surf and laid back beach town.
Mazatlán – Beauftiful colonial city and cosmopolitan beach city
Bahia Magdelena – Come see the annual grey whale migration in Baja California
There are over 40 official crossing points on the US–Mexico border.
To enter Mexico, you will need either a valid passport or your original birth certificate along with a valid photo ID such as a drivers license. Citizens other than U.S. or Canadian may have other requirements such as a visa. Please note that if you are a US citizen, you will need your passport to cross back into the United States. If you are entering Mexico by any means other than airlines or cruise ship (see below) and staying for over 72 hours and/or traveling more than 20 miles beyond the border, you will need a FMT or Mexican tourist card that can be obtained at all border crossings.
For those of you entering on an airline or cruise, your identification must be presented at the airline/cruise check-in. Once on the plane/ship you will be given two forms to fill out - one for Immigration (Tourist Card) and another for Customs (Customs Declaration Form). There are restrictions as to what you can bring to Mexico. Firearms without a permit not to mention drugs are strictly forbidden.
All tourists traveling to Mexico have the right to take with them their personal luggage duty free.
Most commonly encountered restrictions are (import duties could be assessed if you exceed these amounts):
· Some food items especially plants and seeds
· Cigars and cigarettes - up to 20 packs per person
· Liquor and wine - up to 3 liters per person
· Film or videocassettes - up to 12 rolls/cassettes
· Medicine for personal use - must have a prescription if the medicine is psychotropic or if you needed one to get the medicine in the first place
· Illegal controlled substances & drugs
· Firearms - only for hunting and must obtain a permit from the Mexican Consulate in advance
Your first stop after you depart the plane or ship is immigration. Here you will have to present your passport (or birth certificate) along with the Tourist Visa you filled out. Your tourist visa and passport will be stamped to make your arrival official. (You will need to keep your passport and tourist visa with you at all times while in Mexico - make copies in case you lose your originals). Next proceed to the baggage claim area for your luggage. If entering by land, all of the above apply. Other than picking up your Tourist Card and having the proper identification, the only difference is the "green light - red light" system. If you are driving, the lights will be in the lane you cross in. Look for yours and if it's green, then drive away. If it's red (and there should be a bell or buzzer sounding) then you need to pull over to the Customs (you'll be pointed in the direction by an officer) area for an inspection. Same process for those of you walking in to Mexico. More than likely you will be directed to push the button on a solitary "stoplight" with the same system as other entries.
Customs is the last step. Here you will need to have your Customs Declaration Form handy (the other form you were given on the plane/ship). Mexico has very “official” "Red Light - Green Light" system. If you have put "Nothing to declare" on this form, you will be asked to push a button. If the light is green you can exit without inspection; if the light is red you will be subject to inspection. Declare anything over and above what is allowed and pay all applicable duties. If you do not, and are caught by a red light, the fines may be very steep.
You will need a permiso de importación temporal de vehículos (temporary vehicle import permit) if you want to take a vehicle beyond Baja California, beyond Guaymas in Sonora state, or beyond the border zone that extends 20km to 30km into Mexico along the rest of the US frontier and up to 70km from the Guatemalan and Belize frontiers. Officials at posts of the Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM; National Immigration Institute) will want to see your permit. Permits are not needed to take vehicles into Baja California itself, and the state of Sonora does not require them for travel as far south as Guaymas.
The permits are issued at offices at border crossings or (in some cases) at posts a few kilometers into Mexico. Details of all these locations are given at www.banjercito.com.mx (click on ‘Red de Módulos IITV’). You can also apply for the permit online at www.banjercito.com.mx (‘Application for Temporary Import Permit for Vehicles’), in which case, it will be delivered to you by courier.
The fee for the permit is the peso equivalent of US$29.70 if obtained at or after the border, US$39.60 from a Mexican consulate, or US$49.50 online. You can also pre-register online which speeds up the process of actually obtaining the permit at a consulate or the border.
The person importing the vehicle will need to carry the original and one or two photocopies of each of the following documents (people at the office may make photocopies for a small fee), which as a rule must all be in his/her own name (except that you can bring in your spouse’s, parent’s or child’s vehicle if you can show a marriage or birth certificate proving your relationship) :
- Tourist card (FMT) : at the border go to migración before you process your vehicle permit.
- Certificate of title or registration certificate for the vehicle
- Visa or MasterCard, issued by a an institution outside of Mexico; if you don’t have one you must pay a returnable deposit of between US$200 and US$400 (depending on how old the car is) at the border. Your card details or deposit serve as a guarantee that you’ll take the car out of Mexico before your tourist card (FMT) expires.
- Proof of citizenship or residency, such as a passport, birth certificate or voter’s registration card.
- Driver’s license.
- If the vehicle is not fully paid for, a credit contract from the financing institution or an invoice letter that is less than three months old.
- For a leased or rented vehicle, the contract, in the name of the person importing the vehicle, and a letter from the rental company authorizing you to take it out of the US.
One person cannot bring in two vehicles. If you have a motorcycle attached to your car, you’ll need another adult traveling with you to obtain a permit for the motorcycle, and he/she will need to have all the right papers for it.
With the permit you will be given a sticker to be displayed on your windshield.
You have the option to take the vehicle in and out of Mexico for the period shown on your tourist card. Ask for a tarjetón de internación, a document which you will exchange for a comprobante de retorno each time you leave Mexico; when you return to Mexico, you swap the comprobante for another tarjetón. When you leave Mexico the last time, you must have the import permit canceled by the Mexican authorities. An official may do this as you enter the border zone, usually 20km to 30km before the border itself. If not, you’ll have to find the right official at the border crossing. If you leave Mexico without having the permit canceled, the authorities may assume you’ve left the vehicle in the country illegally and decide to keep your deposit, charge a fine to your credit card, or deny you permission to bring a vehicle into the country on your next trip.
Only the owner may take the vehicle out of Mexico. If the vehicle is wrecked completely, you must contact your consulate or a Mexican customs office to make arrangements to leave without it.