All the blog posts I read before our visit only gave me a small glimpse of what to expect for our first time in Mexico. These posts, along with beach holidays in the Yucatan Peninsula portrayed on social media, news on mainstream media and Mexico as portrayed in movies have largely defined my perception of this North American country. But I would find out that Mexico is so much more!
What's Covered in this Post
First Time in Mexico: Travelling from Kenya (or Nigeria)
Travelling to Mexico was quite the journey. We left Kenya on a British Airways flight to London and hopped on another flight, operated by Delta Airlines, to Philadephia. We spent some time there and another few days in Delaware before flying to Mexico City to begin our circuit.
Breaking up the trip was a great idea, as it allowed us to spend some time with Mark’s family and friends in the US and get over our jetlag too.
PS: There are currently no direct flights from either Kenya or Nigeria to Mexico but several airlines are available to get you there, with at least one stop at their various hubs. For our return journey, we flew out of Cancun with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul.
Mexico Travel Requirements
Nigerians require a visa to visit Mexico. However, you can see the country visa-free if you have a valid US, Schengen, Japan, and UK visa. I wrote all about the visa requirements and application process in this post. Be sure to go through the article, especially if your visit will be your first time in Mexico.
At the moment, there are no PCR or quarantine requirements to visit. At the port of entry, you will be required to fill out a form. The Immigration officer detaches the bottom part of the form and hands it back to you. You will need to submit this piece when you exit the country, so be sure not to lose it.
Lastly, if you visit the state of Quintana Roo, you will be required to pay a Tourist Tax. It is currently about $11. No one asked to see the proof of this payment when we were leaving the country, however, we did see some folks carrying a sign at the airport warning travellers to pay to avoid issues with Authorities.
First Time in Mexico – Where to Go in May
We spent 12 days in Mexico visiting several cities and towns. Our trip began with a 3-night stay in Mexico City. Then we took a 6-hour bus ride to Oaxaca, where we spent another 3 nights. After that, we took a flight to Cancun but didn’t spend any time there.
Instead, we rented a car and drove down to Valladolid – a city close to Chichen Itza. Then to Bacalar and finally to Tulum.
I thought that this itinerary was a good introduction to Mexico and it allowed us the opportunity to indulge in several new experiences and food. We tried out different types of mole and tacos, had a mezcal tasting experience in Oaxaca, learnt a lot about one of the new seven world wonders, swam in cenotes and the beautiful Bacalar Lagoon, practised our broken Spanish, went paddleboarding for the first time and a lot more!
It also did not feel rushed and by the time we were leaving each place, we both felt like we were doing so after getting a good feel of the area.
Is May a Good Time to Visit Mexico?
After reading about the expected weather conditions in May, we were a bit sceptical about visiting Mexico during this month. May marks the beginning of the rainy season and the temperature starts to get warmer. In addition, coastal Mexico experiences a greater amount of sargassum on its beaches, making them a little less attractive than how they usually are.
Regardless, we decided to take our chances and what we ‘lost’ in seaweed-free beaches, we gained in lower hotel prices and fewer tourists. It did rain at the tail end of our trip – but only at the right times. When we were indoors, at night or when we were transiting from one place to another. Luckily, the rain did not impact any of our activities, the weather was not unbearably hot and we had a great time in the country.
Travel Tips for Your First Time in Mexico
To wrap up this post, here are some tips and recommendations for your first time in Mexico:
- Travel Insurance is always a good idea!
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- Learning a bit of Spanish before you go can greatly improve your experience in Mexico. It is worth learning a few basic words, at the very least, and downloading an offline translator. Google Translate works fine.
- Cards are accepted in many places (especially in the bigger tourist areas) but cash is king. Many establishments will only accept cash.
- Some of the best foods you’ll eat can be found in the streets
- Some cities have free WIFI however if you plan to spend more than a few days in the country and will be moving around quite a bit, then you should get a sim card once you arrive.
- Beware of additional fees when you rent a car online (aka the Mexico Car Rental Scam) – This one is quite difficult to avoid as many car rental companies (in Cancun) engage in this practice. Several travel bloggers recommend Discover Cars and based on these recommendations, we reserved a car with Mex Rent a Car through their website. Unfortunately, we still faced the same issues we were trying to avoid. From our experience, it is probably better to rent directly from the rental company and if possible to do so in person.
What is the Car Rental Scam in Mexico?
Basically, what happens is this: You rent a car online and opt for basic insurance. You arrive at the Cancun Airport and the rental company’s shuttle transports you to their office. There you are told that you need to buy non-negotiable full coverage insurance that more than doubles the price you have reserved the car for. That’s it, you’re stuck. You either forgo your deposit or fork out the extra cash they have included.
In our case, Mark persistently negotiated the extra charges until they came down to a price we were quite comfortable with. On the upside, the car we got was in excellent condition and the drop-off process was seamless.
In contrast, we rented a car in person with Europcar in Oaxaca. Despite their appalling online reviews, we had a fairly good experience with them. The condition of the car was not as good as Mex Rent a Car’s, but the pickup experience was so much better.
Overall, our first time in Mexico was wonderful and I’ll be writing more about the places we visited in upcoming posts. If there’s anything you’d like to know about visiting Mexico for the first time, or if you would like to share some details about your trip, leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you.