10 Signs It’s Your First Time in Mexico
1. You’re pretty certain the drug lords are just waiting in the bushes to rob/rape/kidnap/kill you.
Get over yourself. They aren’t. Yes, that sort of horrific violence still exists in very few, very particular parts of Mexico, none of which your tourist ass is probably going within hundreds of miles of. After visiting Mexico, you realize that it is an overall safe country to visit, filled with warm and friendly people who will go out of their way to make you feel welcome.
2. You think everyone is going to be sitting around eating tacos.
Tacos are a thing in Mexico, don’t get me wrong. But so are about a zillion other mouth-watering dishes. Mexico is nothing if not full of diverse flavor, each distinct from one region to the next. Try mole poblano, sopes, chicharrón, elote, even toasted grasshoppers for those feeling adventurous. And the best food Mexico has to offer is never found in a restaurant listed in a guidebook. It’s in private homes or sold by street vendors.
3. You think it couldn’t possibly get any better than Cancun.
Seriously, you are so much more creative than this. Unless you’re trying to relive your high school spring break or really have a thing for large, nondescript chain hotels, open your mind to an endless array of mind-blowingly cool possibilities that Mexico has to offer.
Go waterfall jumping in the surreally gorgeous San Luis Potosí. On a coffee tour in Chiapas. Board the Tequila Train in Guadalajara. Surf massive waves in Oaxaca. Explore Copper Canyon in Chihuahua — even larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon.
4. You only packed flip flops and a bathing suit.
News flash: Mexico is huge. Diverse. And not all tropical and beachy. There are mountains, deserts, canyons, and forests. Some places are at very high altitude (Pico de Orizaba tops out at 18,491 feet, and Mexico has 25 summits that reach almost 10,000 feet). Do your homework before you go and pack appropriately.
5. You assume everyone parties on Cinco de Mayo as much as people from the US do.
Most parts of Mexico don’t even celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Traditionally, it’s a local celebration in the city of Puebla, where in 1862 the Mexican army temporarily deterred French invaders. In the US many of us look for any excuse to drink Coronas and eat Mexican food and wear a sombrero…Mexicans don’t. They get to rock that vibe all year long.
6. You think because it’s in pesos that everything will be cheap.
Mexico is not all inexpensive. While there are definitely deals to be had, in places all throughout the country luxury accommodations, high-end shopping, and gourmet restaurants can break the bank.
7. You expect everyone to speak English to you.
Get this: they speak Spanish. Or one of over 68 government recognized indigenous languages. Outside of big cities or well-run tourist establishments, good luck with the English.
8. You assume most all Mexicans are clamoring at the border desperately trying to get to the US.
Many Mexicans are very proud, and have a lot of love for, and loyalty to, their country. There is no other place in the world that they would want to be.
9. You drink the tap water.
Ever hear of Montezuma’s Revenge? The water in Mexico is purified at the source, but the distribution system may allow the water to be contaminated en route to the tap. A lot of locals buy water in five gallon jugs called garrafones which are delivered to their homes (and recycled). Do as most Mexicans do, and stick to purified water.
The water and ice in tourist resorts and hotels should be fine to drink (it’s not in their best interest to have a bunch of sick tourists on their hands), and any ice that you see in the form of a cylinder with a hole in the center is purchased from a purified ice factory and is safe. When brushing your teeth with tap water or when showering, just be careful not to swallow the water.
10. You think you can road trip Mexico in a week.
Mexico isn’t Belize or El Salvador — it’s roughly the same size of Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany all put together, or three times the size of Texas. Mexico is vast and diverse — to see even a small portion of the country and feel like you actually experienced it takes time.
This article was originally published on September 26, 2015.