Money Tips for Mexico
Mexico is a gorgeous country with much to offer eager travelers. Whether you're looking for a relaxing beach vacation, an opportunity to explore an old colonial city 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. Before traveling to Mexico, learn how Mexican currency works, so you can stretch your dollar as far as possible.
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. 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.
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.
ATMs are all around Mexico, but use one at the bank rather than a kiosk on the street or at a convenience 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 fee is around $5. To avoid this fee, consider getting an account at HSBC or Santander, banks with branches in Mexico that don't charge a fee upon withdrawal.
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.
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.