For additional ideas on how to make your trip to Baja more enjoyable drop by the TRAVEL TIPS section of Mexico Expo.
OBTAIN, VALIDATE AND SECURE YOUR TOURIST CARD
To travel into Mexico beyond the border areas Mexican law requires visitors to obtain a valid Tourist Cardand a Passport.
This card must be validated at an Immigration office in Mexico and the $20 U.S. fee (approximately) must be paid at any Mexican bank.
For travel by air or ship this fee is usually included in the cost of the ticket. For travel by road the fee must be paid by the individual traveler.
This validated Tourist Card may be inspected any time during the visitor's stay in Mexico, but is usually only inspected upon departing the country.
It is important for the Mexico traveler to keep this Tourist Card in a location where it will not become lost. Visitors who attempt to leave Mexico without a valid Tourist Card and Passport may face delays and possible penalties.
Minors under 18 years of age traveling with non-parent adults require a notarized letter of permission from both parents to enter Mexico. A minor traveling with one parent needs a letter of permission from the parent who stayed home and missed all the fun, as well as a passport.
BRING SMALL DENOMINATION CURRENCY
Using pesos for purchasing goods and services in Mexico is not necessary as U.S. dollars are accepted almost everywhere throughout the country. However many of the shops and vendors are unable to handle large U.S. currencies such as $20's and $50's.
Before departing on a trip to Mexico it is a good idea to obtain lots of small denomination bills. Having plenty of $1's, $5's and $10's is the perfect way to pay for goods and services in Mexico, and having these smaller bills allows you the added advantage to be more flexible when negotiating for gift items from vendors!
It can also be fun to use Mexican pesos to purchase goods and services in Mexico. Mexican banks will usually give you the most favorable rate when exchanging U.S. dollars for Mexican pesos, while the Casas de Cambios (change houses) are a bit less competitive.
For more information on currency issues in Mexico drop by the PAYING WITH PESOS section of Mexico Expo.
MODERATE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
This one issue can make or break your visit to Mexico. Most travelers to Mexico are coming from a country with a higher standard of living and a completely different culture. The more a visitor understands this the more enjoyable the visit to Mexico will be. Quite simply...you're not in Kansas anymore.
There are several things that a visitor can try to anticipate that may be different than back at home. Although the pace of service has improved in many parts of Mexico over the years, the manana attitude still prevails to some degree. Try to be patient if things don't happen as quickly as you would like. Expect slower service than at home and you won't be disappointed. Relax...you are on vacation!
Although most resort areas in Mexico are very clean and manicured, litter is common in many of the outlying areas. Simply put, many Mexicans have yet to catch on to the idea of not littering. And it may take a long time for that to change, if indeed it ever does. So look beyond the litter to the fantastic geography and the incredibly warm people.
Chances are good that you will experience great weather while visiting Mexico. Much of the country is located in the tropics where the prevailing weather is warm and mild. However the tropics also feature the possibility of tropical storms and hurricanes from June through October. So taking a look at the latest satellite view before departing to Mexico is always a good idea for a "head's up" on what to expect. Most of these weather systems are brief with good weather soon to follow.
SUNSCREEN ROUTINE EVERY DAY
Much of Mexico is located in the tropics. This means the sun is more intense that at higher latitudes. Just a couple of hours in the sun can cause a serious sunburn for some people.
A good idea is to put on sunscreen every morning as a part of your wake-up routine. Maybe sometime after brushing your teeth and before putting on your sandals. But certainly before you walk out the door for your day of fun.
Visitors who are planning on spending time in the pool or the ocean should use waterproof sunscreen. Most sunscreen manufacturers have a product that will stay with you all day while you go in and out of the water. Carlos Fiesta likes the Bullfrog brand of waterproof sunscreen...it really works!
This is your chance to really enjoy yourself! You are away from your job and most of your daily responsibilities. This is your chance to stay up late, sleep in late, dance, drink, karaoke, swim, snorkel and much more. Go for it!
Sometimes it takes a day or two to get into the vacation groove. Carlos Fiesta calls this "decompression". But once you get there enjoy it each and every day from morning until night. Soon enough you will be back at home back to your primary reality wishing you had done more while you were away.
Don't get depressed when your vacation is over and you are heading home. This is the perfect time to plan your next getaway. After all, planning vacations is almost as much fun as the actual trip! (almost)
DON'T BRING DRUGS TO BAJA
Just like the United States, Mexico has laws regarding the possession and use of drugs. The only difference is that the repercussions of getting caught with drugs in Mexico can be much more serious than in the U.S.
Getting caught with just one joint in your possession while traveling in Mexico might lead the officials to believe that you have additional involvement in illegal drugs. And while they sort out the details you are stuck in a Mexican jail, which is very different from a U.S. jail. You're not watching Sienfeld re-runs in a Mexican jail.
Remember, under Mexican laws it can seem like you are considered guilty until proven innocent. If you really have to get high while in Mexico your best bet is to sample the local cervesa or tequila. They are some of the best in the world!
DON'T BRING GUNS OR AMMUNITION TO BAJA
Mexico is very serious about gun control and the rules are pretty simple... they aren't allowed. You are not even allowed to possess ammunition in Mexico. And if they find a bullet in your possession it gives them a legal reason to detain you.
If you bring a gun to Mexico and try to use the excuse that it was for your personal protection or for hunting it won't matter, you will not get a sympathetic ear. But it might buy you some time in a Mexican slammer. They've heard all of the excuses... well before you crossed the border.
Hunting is allowed in some locations in Mexico but special permits must be obtained and they need to be procured in advance of entering the country.
DON'T BUY A TIMESHARE
Carlos Fiesta has nothing against timeshares. They are a good concept that works well for a percentage of the population. But while traveling in Mexico your vacation time is very valuable, and the last thing you want to do is spend time in a stuffy conference room listening to a salesman sell you on the benefits of his resort while looking at a slide show of people laying around a beautiful pool. That should be you laying by the pool at the hotel you just paid for. Hello!
The time to research the possibility of buying a timeshare is after you visit a resort and then go home. Get on the Internet, research all the data, and then get serious about your purchase on your second trip to that destination. If you like the place that much you'll be back soon enough and you can bring your checkbook next time. There is no need to spend your valuable vacation time on your first trip to town.
So the next time you are flagged over to the little booth with the attractive young man or woman who wants to give you a free breakfast or a free sunset catamaran ride, just smile and say "no thank you"...and keep on walking. Unless you really want to spend three hours of your time to get a freebie, then go for it. But remember you are going to pay for it one way or the other.
DON'T DRIVE WITHOUT LIABILITY INSURANCE
Driving in Mexico, whether it is your own car or a rental car, can add miles of depth to your visit. And being properly insured can add miles of peace of mind for a relatively small cost.
You are not required to have collision insurance when driving in Mexico, the government isn't concerned about damage to your car. But the law requires you to have liability insurance (or the financial equivalent) to cover any damages you may cause to other cars, personal property or people.
There are many companies that offer the required minimum liability insurance for driving in Mexico. They can be found at border crossing areas, on the Internet, and even here in Baja Expo. When obtaining insurance you will have the option of purchasing just liability insurance, or also damage insurance for the vehicle. Some U.S. Insurance carriers will cover damage insurance to the vehicle if an accident takes place near the border area and others will not. It's a good idea to check with your U.S. insurance carrier to be sure.
DON'T DRIVE FAST AT NIGHT
Each year more visitors to Mexico choose to drive down. Whether it's a long weekend in Baja or an extended road trip into mainland Mexico, driving is a great way to experience the true flavor of Mexico.
Some guidebooks suggest not driving at night in Mexico. Although there can be greater risks involved in driving at night, following a few simple rules can help increase your chances of driving at night.
Because the roads in Mexico handle everything from v-e-r-y slow vehicles to roaming cattle, it is important to be able to see everything that lies in your path in enough time to stop if you need to. If you are going faster than you can see ahead it might be too late to see that cow in the middle of the road around the corner. And once ol' Bessie's big brown eyes are lying on the hood of your car...it's too late.
Look at the ground you cover by driving at night as bonus time. Take it slow and watch the road. Remember...a safe vacation is no accident.