The first time I went to Mexico was to Tijuana, south of California with my family when I was in high school. I went a second time in high school to Mexico City with a group called The Foreign Language Club from Choctaw High School in Oklahoma. Since then, and now it is many, may years later, I have been to Mexico so many times I can’t count them. I always enjoy Mexico when I go. However, right now, it has been a while since I have been in Mexico. I actually got scared of Mexico because of all the drug cartels and stories about people being killed. However, there are still a lot of Americans, from what I understand, that go on vacation in Mexico, so perhaps it is a bit better. I don’t know. I learned lots of rules for traveling in Mexico over the years, and since I am teaching people how to speak Spanish, I felt it was obligatory for me to help you travel in Mexico safely.
To begin with, before you go, you need a passport now a days. However, when I first began going, all we needed as Americans was a birth certificate. Sadly, the relationship has changed between the two countries over time. Whatever country you are from, you may need a visa too. Just check with your Mexican consulate. Also, before you go, you need to think about the water in Mexico. Go to your doctor. There is a kind of pills he can give you to prevent what they call “Montezuma’s revenge.” That is an upset stomach and diarrhea from drinking the water. Your doctor can give you pills to try to prevent any problems.
However, I have been to Mexico many times without taking this medicine, and I just learned how to protect my stomach and never had any trouble. First, never drink the water. Be careful of the fresh fruit. If you have something to drink, try to drink Coca-Cola that has been chilled in the bottle. I have drunk it with ice in it from a glass, though, and my stomach wasn’t bothered. Just be very careful with ingesting any kind of water because it could tear your stomach up and destroy your fun on your trip. Take some Imodium with you or some other medicine that works for you just in case you get diarrhea.
Something else you have to think about its the crime. Women, never leave your purse hanging on the back of your chairs. Hold that purse close to you all the time. They also make a special kind of wallet for men to hand around their necks and keep under the shirts, and I recommend it for men who are traveling. If you are in a car or with a group in a bus, never travel at night. The banditos come out at night.
If you are traveling and haven’t made a hotel reservation, don’t just pull into a hotel and check in. Go to the hotel, but ask to see a room before you check in. Every hotel is not equal, and you could get into a really nasty place easily if you aren’t careful. We learned to always check because once we checked in and the carpet was so nasty that we felt we couldn’t take our shoes off, and there were bugs running everywhere. The next time, we stopped, we asked to see the hotel before we checked in, and the toilet had no seat, and the toilet and sink in the bathroom were absolutely nasty! Needless to say, we passed that place up. The next hotel we came to was frugal meaning the floor was from concrete and there weren’t any extras, but clean, so we stayed there. It helps a lot if you speak Spanish because you can ask to see the room first before just putting up with whatever they give you after you have already checked in.
When you go, there are always lots of nice souvenirs when you go shopping. You might want a sombrero, a Mexican dress, or maybe one of the big beautiful paper flowers they sell. They also sell gorgeous onyx chess sets and lace shawls. They sell all kinds of beautiful things! However, never pay the price they ask for the item. They will do whatever they can to get as much money out of you as possible. Have an idea of how much you think you want to pay, and don’t budge. When they offer you a high price, they expect you to come back with a counter offer, and are delighted if you are so naive about Mexico that you pay the original asking price. When they offer their high price, offer a price that is too low. It will make them come down and offer a cheaper price. If you think they are still offering too much, go up on your offering price just slightly. Just go back and forth until you can agree on a price. Never take the first price they ask for. However, you also need to get ready to have them decide their price shouldn’t budge. Speaking Spanish is a plus because you can’t do this if you don’t speak Spanish. I did this to get a lace shawl once and got a beautiful one for a very good price. A girl who was with me wanted one too and asked me to help her, but because I was translating for her, he decided he didn’t want to sell to her. If you speak Spanish, you can get them on your side.
If you are driving in a big city, just get ready! There will be kids jumping up out of no where washing your windshield. After they have washed your windshield, they will expect to be paid. If you don’t want your windshield washed and to pay for it, you need to be aware that they may do it, and make them get lost before they start washing. They will wash without asking you and may shock you, so be careful not to run them down. Keep an eye open for them. Besides these kids, there will be people trying to get money from you for all kinds of reasons. Unless you want to fall into the trap of giving money out to everyone, learn the phrase, “No dinero,” meaning “no money,” and mean it when you say it. There will be people trying to get money from you.
You may think the best things to see are in the big cities, and there are good things to see in the big cities. I loved the Folk Lore Ballet in Mexico City! I really enjoyed seeing the Cathedral of Guadalupe and the National Cathedral in Mexico City too, but if you have chance, go out into the country close to Mexico City and see the pyramids. I have heard there are pyramids further south too, but I have never been further south of Mexico City. Or, go into one of the pueblos, the small towns. You will enjoy going in to see the smaller church buildings too. They also have beautiful statues. Never forget to go to the square in whatever town you are in. It is where all the life is. You will see children playing there, lovers walking hand in hand, mariachi bands playing music, men selling ice cream, etc. The square is where the life of the towns is at. When the sun goes down, the kids have to go home, but the young people gather in the square, and there is a lot of laughing and having fun.
As I said, I haven’t been there for a few years because I heard a lot about the drug cartels in Mexico and the danger they pose, but I still have a love for Mexico, and I will probably at least go over into a border town for an afternoon when I get back to America. Mexico can be a lot of fun, but it is always better to be careful and know a few rules for staying safe before you go.