9 Things to Know Before Traveling to Mexico



If you’re just tuning into my posts on my trip to Mexico (you can view all previous posts here), I recently took a trip to San Luis Potosí, Mexico for ten days with my parents and sister for her junior world racquetball tournament. I loved visiting there and wish I  could be back there right now, especially for the warm weather! It was my first time in Mexico and I was surprised by a few things while we were there, so I thought I would do a post on 9 things you need to know before traveling to Mexico for any other first timers visiting Mexico! 🙂 

9 Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Mexico

1. Learn some Spanish

This may be different if you’re staying in a place like Cancun that’s used to tourists, but like I said in my previous posts, San Luis Potosí was not a touristy place at all. Very few people there spoke any English, and even the people working in the hotel didn’t speak English. It was great getting an authentic Mexican experience, but I should have learned some Spanish before going (in my defense, I thought my dad and sister spoke more Spanish than they did, so that’s my fault for not checking!). My mom speaks French and I speak French and Danish, and I kept defaulting to Danish for some reason so I was absolutely no help on our trip (I accidentally said “tak” instead of “gracias” a few times and got some confused looks).

Thankfully, the locals were very nice, and we got by with the combination of pointing to menus or maps and my dad’s attempts at speaking Spanish. So before you go, make sure you learn the basics for directions and also words you would use in a hotel like “towels” (the hotel staff never gave us enough towels for four people, but we couldn’t communicate that very well).

9 Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Mexico

2. Parasites in food or water are very real

This isn’t a fun topic, but if you’re traveling to Mexico, I wanted to make sure you know that parasites there are real. And they’re terrible. I’m sure you’ve heard that you shouldn’t drink the water in Mexico, and it’s true (again, this may be different if you’re staying in a place like Cancun). My family didn’t drink any tap water on our trip, but my dad and I got parasites from a restaurant, and let me tell you, it’s an awful experience. I won’t go into any gross details, but my stomach was in excruciating pain and it took a few weeks before my stomach had fully recovered. It was not a fun experience. One of the kids on the racquetball team got so sick that he had to be hospitalized. You shouldn’t avoid going to Mexico because you’re scared of getting parasites (most of the people on the trip didn’t get sick from parasites, so it’s not like you’re guaranteed to get them), but just be wary of the food and water when you go. And there are ways to try to avoid getting them, and I found a helpful post for you on how you can avoid parasites while traveling.

3. Be prepared for small taxis and crazy rides

I’ve heard horror stories from friends about crazy car rides they took in Central and South America, but the drivers in Mexico weren’t quite as reckless as I was expecting. That being said, the drivers were still way more reckless than I’ve experienced anywhere else I’ve traveled, and we narrowly escaped accidents a few times (I’m pretty sure we came within a centimeter of hitting another car one time). Half of the taxis didn’t even have seatbelts, and they were all pretty tiny (VW Bugs were EVERYWHERE), which isn’t necessarily a problem unless you’re cramming four people into a taxi and you’re 5’10” and one of the shortest people in your family.

But on the plus side of taxis, they’re super cheap compared to the prices in the U.S.!

9 Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Mexico

4. It’s surprisingly Americanized

I wasn’t expecting to see tons of American stores like I did in San Luis Potosí. In just one spot, there was a Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Costco all next to each other. I even saw a Metlife at one point, complete with a Snoopy sign. There are lots of Mexican stores of course, but don’t be surprised if you see more Walmarts in Mexico than you’ve seen in the U.S.

5. You don’t need an adapter

This one surprised me, but you actually don’t need an adapter in Mexico because they use the same outlets as we do in the U.S. I guess I’m just more used to traveling around Europe and needing an adapter there (if you’re visiting Mexico from Europe, I do have an adapter suggestion on my previous post).

6. Meals are very cheap (and delicious!)

I had some amazing food in Mexico, and I was surprised how cheap everything was. Even a meal in our hotel was only a few dollars (and had the best tortilla soup out of all the restaurants we went to!). Like I said before, be wary of parasites, but don’t let it stop you from trying different foods. And if you go to San Luis Potosí, make sure you try the enchiladas potosinas!

If you’re in Philadelphia and want to have authentic Mexican food, Quetzally is the most authentic place I’ve been to so far and their tortilla soup tastes exactly like what I got in Mexico.

9 Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Mexico

7. You might stick out

I’m 5’10”, blonde, and pretty pale with freckles, and my redhead mom and I stuck out in Mexico like a sore thumb. I try to blend in when I travel and not look super touristy, and I could do that easily in Denmark (I got mistaken for a Dane more times than I can count and it made me so happy) but I couldn’t blend in at all in Mexico. You might get strange looks like I did, but I got used to it after a couple of days.

8. The weather might be finicky

This might be different if you’re on the coast, but I was surprised how much the weather would change. It would go from 50 degrees and raining one day to 75 degrees and sunny the next day and then back to 50 degrees and raining the day after. So make sure you pack clothes for all kinds of weather, and pack sunscreen because you might get sunburned, even in November (I told you I was pale…).

9. It’s a beautiful country that you should definitely visit

From the nature to the historic architecture, Mexico is so pretty! I especially loved all the bright colors everywhere. I didn’t make it to the coast, but from the pictures I’ve seen, it’s beautiful there, too. So if you get the chance to visit Mexico, you should definitely go, and you won’t regret it!

9 Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Mexico

If you want a guide to San Luis Potosí, check out my Destination Guide for San Luis Potosí, Mexico on Female Travel Blogger’s website!

If you’ve been to Mexico before, what tips do you have? Comment below! 🙂 If you haven’t been yet, I hope my guide to Mexico helps!

You can view the other posts from my trip on my Mexico page

Blog, Mexico, North America, Photography, Travel, Travel Tips

  1. All good to know Julia. We are eyeing a potential Mexico trip for the new year. My wife speaks fairly fluent Spanish and I can get by. We did a house sit in a remote area of Panama for 3 months earlier last year; we had to speak some Spanish to get by because no one in a remote region of Panama speaks a word of English. Understandably so.

    Excellent post.

  2. Meaghan says:

    I learnt a lot from this post! Especially the parasites ????
    But you also reminded me to buy an adapter as I’m from the UK!

  3. Those are all great recommendations. I know enough spanish to get by but definately not enough to be fluent, even though I took 4 years of Spanish in school. Ugh, parasites, my husband always suffers the worst. I love Mexico, the food, and the culture. I can’t wait to read your other posts.

  4. Steph says:

    I definitely agree with all of these 🙂 I was pleasantly surprised on how affordable things were (outside of touristy cancun). I really want to explore more of Mexico though, thanks for the tips and raising awareness for new travellers! This will be super helpful to those planning trips there 🙂

  5. Anita says:

    I haven’t been to Mexico yet. Your tips are very helpful for planning a visit. There are things better to know in advance to avoid them and make a trip a pleasant one. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Tasha says:

    I’d love to go to Mexico! These are some very useful tips for if I do one day go. I didn’t realise the food would be so cheap!

  7. Awesome post and full of great tips! I’ve only been to Tijuana so far and definitely want to experience more of the country at some point. 🙂

  8. Alissa says:

    Great post! I LOVE Mexico – this past fall I spent 2 and half months traveling around the country and it’s just a fabulous place to travel. I never made it to San Luis but it’s super high on my Mexico list (I never knew about it before going and just didn’t factor it into my plans, but now I know that it’s supposed to be so so beautiful and will definitely be visiting next time I’m in the country!). I’m sorry to hear that you got sick, but otherwise I’m glad that you had a good trip! Beautiful photos!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  9. Leigh says:

    I love Mexico so much – and the food!!! I’m trying to learn Spanish, but my 6 years of French study keep tripping me up as well. I haven’t heard of San Luis Potosí, so I’m going to have to look into it as another possible destination!

  10. Gina says:

    I’m soooo ready!!! Thanks for the info!

  11. Penelopi says:

    Now I have to learn Spanish!!! 🙂 I never been to Mexico! I have heard so many weird stories about the danger etc but it seems ok.

  12. Alice Chen says:

    Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Costco? That’s totally unexpected! These tips are super great; I will definitely be saving them for a trip to Mexico!

  13. Yeessss to everything! Especially the crazy drivers and the amazing food! 🙂

  14. Stella says:

    I love posts like this! We should always prepare for what’s waiting for our destination! I want to visit Mexico someday so thanks for the info.

  15. Ella says:

    I have never been to mexico and it’s helpful to know the things you talk about. I could almost smell and taste the food you are talking about 🙂

  16. Riely says:

    I have been to Mexico twice, both at an all-inclusive, which is nice in some aspects, but I definitely like the feel of a more authentic, less-touristy experience. I love the struggle of communicating in different cultures. I guess cause it forces you to communicate in different languages. Yes, beware of parasites. It isn’t as bad in all-inclusive resorts, but you still need to be careful. I stay away from certain foods even at the resort.

  17. Umberta says:

    I’m going to Mexico in 3 months so I really enjoyed this post! Can’t wait to visit this country, it looks fabulous!

  18. Annika says:

    This is very informative. I must admit, I have avoided travel to Mexico because I am scared of getting parasites. Thanks for providing a link to information regarding avoiding them.

  19. Omg, I am so sorry about the parasites. That sounds truly awful for sure. And I had no idea about the adaptor either, but I am glad I read this post because I have never been to Mexico and want to be prepared.

  20. Meghan says:

    I love that this is a less touristy part of Mexico. It sounds so nice to visit because you can get away from some of that! I also like that you included the piece about knowing some Spanish. Important to be prepared when traveling!

  21. This is perfect for me! I’m thinking of visiting Central America potentially later this year and I’ve a terrible habit of being underprepared… I’m really glad you wrote this – especially the parasites and taxi rides. I don’t know any Spanish so let’s hope Duolingo sorts me out 😛

    Thanks for sharing this!

  22. Lynn says:

    This is such a helpful post, and it’s making me want to visit Mexico! [despite the parasites, ha ha] I guess it’s time for me to read through all your other articles on Mexico to sate my wanderlust in the meantime!

  23. Sara says:

    I had a friend who got really sick when she went to Mexico too. Me and my husband are thinking about going to Thailand this year and that is one thing I am really afraid of. I’m hoping my nerves about what I eat and drink won’t prevent me from enjoying the local cuisine.

    • Julia says:

      Thailand sounds awesome! Yeah I would look up information on if there’s anything you need to be cautious about because you don’t want to spend your vacation sick!

  24. Tonya says:

    Thank you for sharing, these are great to know before I plan any trip to Mexico.

  25. Jessi says:

    Your advice is great! I love how you included examples with your own personal experiences in Mexico. I would love to visit there one day.

  26. Jordan says:

    You’re giving me wanderlust! Thanks for sharing your travel tips 🙂 I haven’t been to Mexico for so long and it’s definitely on my list to visit again soon!

  27. Thanks for sharing – makes me want to travel!

  28. Good to know! Isn’t it funny how those romance languages get all mixed up in your head. They’re so similar, yet so different

  29. Robin says:

    I’ve been to Mexico twice – once to Alamos (a small town like it sounds like this is – not “touristy,” per se, but a lot of artsy ex-pats apparently live there!) when I was in first grade, and once to Ensenada (Baja California) when I was in high school for a service trip. It’s such an interesting country, and I’m dying to go back after looking at your posts. I love the architecture and the vibrant culture. I do remember getting gawked at as a tall blonde girl too, even as a kid, and I also hate not blending in – but people were so sweet about it, some of them never having seen blue eyes before!

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