Mexico is a gorgeous country with much to offer eager travelers. Whether you're looking for a relaxing beach vacation in Cancun, an opportunity to explore an old colonial city like Guanajuato, or the chance to try delicious cuisine, this gem in Latin America is the perfect place for a trip. Best of all, Mexico is an affordable place to travel, as the cost of living is low compared to the United States and the street vendors serving drool worthy tacos and Spanish food allow travelers to save a few pesos.
Before planning a trip and arranging Mexico travel accommodations, learn how Mexican foreign currency works, so you can stretch your dollar as far as possible. Who knows, following select travel tips and understanding the amount of cash often lost in currency exchange may save you 1 usd, 100 pesos, or upwards of 500 pesos.
Understanding the Currency
Mexico uses the Mexican peso (MXN). Some resort cities may accept U.S. dollars; however, it's likely that you will be charged more than if you paid in pesos and may save money by visiting a currency exchange. Although the exchange rate from dollar to peso is constantly fluctuating, you should know what a peso will get you in Mexico. For instance, 30 to 80 pesos equals approximately $3 to $5 USD, about the price of a decent meal at an average restaurant. No matter the daily exchange rate, most people can get by in many places in Mexico for about $30 a day, and in some areas, that's quite a lot.
Where to Exchange Your Money
Every major city in Mexico has places to exchange money. You will be charged a commission, but it's generally a lot lower than if you exchanged at an airport, bank or hotel. Use Google Maps to search "cambio" or "exchange" to find places that will perform exchanges. To avoid exchange fees, consider having an account at a U.S. bank with branches in Mexico. Also be aware of your surroundings when choosing where to exchange currency to find the best exchange rate and avoid scams.
Debit Cards and Credit Cards: What You Need to Know
In the past, tourists were advised to not even bother with debit cards and credit cards in Mexico, but that's changed. When visiting a local restaurant, an outdoor artisan market or a street food booth, cash is absolutely necessary. However, today's popular restaurants, hotels and large shopping malls accept debit or credit cards. Find a credit card without a foreign transaction fee because you could end up paying 3 percent or more on each transaction. In most instances having local currency on hand in addition to a travel credit card attached to a Mexican bank is the best option.
ATMs are all around Mexico, but use ATMs at the bank rather than a kiosk on the street, at a gas station, convenience, or grocery store. Doing so ensures that the ATM is monitored and secure, and you will be less likely to accidentally withdraw counterfeit money, which does happen. Each bank charges a different rate to withdraw pesos on a foreign card, but generally, the atm fee is around $5.
To avoid this fee, consider getting a bank account at HSBC, BBVA, Banamex, or Santander, banks with branches or providers in Mexico that don't charge a fee upon withdrawal. Considering a card through a Mexican based bank account can save large amounts of withdrawal fees during your trip, especially for those outside on an all-inclusive resort.
Tipping is not as necessary in Mexico as it is in the U.S., but when eating at a restaurant, you may want to leave a little something for the waiter or waitress. In Mexico, 10 percent is standard, but if the service is exceptional, you can always tip more. Make sure to give the tip directly to the server to avoid it landing in the wrong hands. Taxi drivers or airport shuttle drivers in Mexico typically do not expect a tip but a standard of around 10 pesos is courteous for those who help move your luggage.
Getting Pesos Before You Arrive
You should have some pesos on hand when you land in Mexico to buy a bottle of water, a snack or perhaps pay for a taxi ride, especially if using a debit card or credit card isn't an option. If your main concern is having money for transportation, in Mexico City, you can take an Uber from the airport. Otherwise, many hotels arrange shuttle services. Just to be safe, $2,000 pesos (about $100) should cover an official airport taxi ride.
Before traveling, also remember to check visa requirements. Canadian citizens and U.S. citizens often do not need visa documentation, but be thorough in researching to ensure your trip runs smoothly as you enter Mexican paradise.