Travel

For this December: Viva Mexico

For this December: Viva Mexico

Hi everyone again! Today we will travel far away, in a tropical and spicy destination that has inspired numerous travelers over the last years. It is a top destination with many interest sightseeing of different nature ...what else Mexico!!!

Mexico (Spanish: México), is a fascinating country in North America, lying between the United States of America to the north, and Guatemala and Belize to the southeast.

Its extensive coastlines of more than 10,000km include the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Mexico has pleasant and warm weather, unique food, art and archeology, pyramids, museums, haciendas, superb architecture and 21st century cities, weather from snow mountains in the Sierras, to rainy jungles in the Southeast and desert in the Northwest, numerous golf courses, excellent fishing, and world-class destinations like Acapulco, Cancun, Cozumel, Los Cabos, and Mazatlan. Mexico is ranked as the 7th major destination for foreign visitors, according to the World Trade Organization.

Mexico is one of the most popular tourist countries on the planet. Much of the tourist industry revolves around the beach resorts as well as the altiplano in the central part of the country. Visiting the northern interior allows visitors to get off the beaten path a bit. American tourists tend to predominate on the Baja peninsula and the more modern beach resorts (Cancún and Puerto Vallarta), while European tourists congregate around the smaller resort areas in the south like Playa del Carmen and colonial towns like San Cristobal de las Casas and Guanajuato.

The climate varies dramatically across Mexico's vast landscape. In the northernmost area of the Baja Peninsula, on the Pacific coast, the climate is Mediterranean, whereas the climate is arid on the other side of the peninsula, facing the Sea of Cortez. As you go south on the Baja Peninsula, the climate changes to become a subtropical sub-arid/semi-arid climate, until you reach La Paz and Cabo, which has a unique tropical desert climate. On the mainland, the northern area of Mexico tends to be mountainous and chilly, and the lower areas have an arid climate. A tropical climate prevails from around the Tampico area down to Cancun, as well as the adjacent side on the Pacific.

 

Cities of Mexico

Mexico has many cities with different atmosphere each one, all of them well known to most travelers. Below we have highlighted for you the most important ones

Mexico City - the capital of the Republic, one of the three largest cities in the world, and a sophisticated urban hub with a 700-year history. In Mexico City, you will find everything from parks, Aztec ruins, colonial architecture, museums, to nightlife and shopping

Acapulco - a sophisticated urban beach setting known for its top-notch nightlife, elegant dining, and nightmarish traffic

Cancun - one of the worlds most popular and famous beaches, known for its clear Caribbean waters, its lively party atmosphere, and its wealth of recreational facilities

Guadalajara - traditional city, capital of Jalisco state, and the home of mariachi music and tequila and blessed with perpetual spring weather and a graceful and sophisticated colonial downtown

Mazatlan - lively Pacific beach resort, transport hub and popular Spring Break destination with the oldest Carnival in Mexico and one of the largest in the world

Monterrey - large modern city that's the commercial and industrial hub of Northern Mexico and enjoying a dry, mountainous setting

San Luis Potosi - central Mexico, colonial city that was once an important silver produce

Taxco - nice steep mountain town now has a strong place in the trade of decorative silver, from cheap fittings to the most elegant jewelry and elaborate castings

Tijuana - Mexico's busiest border crossing for pedestrians and private vehicles, and a long-time bargain Mecca for southern Californians due to its proximity to San Diego

 

 

Other destinations and archaeological sites

Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre) - An exotic destination for travelers looking for a unique remote adventure! An awesome mountain rail ride --- one of the greatest in the world --- takes you upwards over 2438 metres on the CHEPE, the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railway. Hiking, horseback riding, birding, and Tarahumara Indians. Copper Canyon, the Sierra Madre and the Chihuahuan desert of Mexico. This area is designed for adventurous individuals who will tolerate some rough travel to get to their point(s) of interest (although the famous train ride isn't demanding at all). Copper Canyon, a magnificent remote wilderness is not likely ever to become a mass market destination.

NOTE: If taking the CHEPE train ride starting in Los Mochis, the real scenery starts at El Fuerte. Stand on the western side and travel uphill to Creel or Chihuahua. Hang out in the few open vestibules with your camera -- the uphill scenery is fairly splendid for at least two of the seven or nine or twelve hours of the journey. On the downhill run, put yourself in the club (bar) car, where you can stretch out in a modicum of comfort. The first-class (express) and second-class (tourist) trains are essentially the same, except that the express stops less and is twice as expensive.

Sea of Cortez - See whale birthings, swim with dolphins, and sea kayak in the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez, along the eastern coast of Baja California, near La Paz. And the sunsets at Puerto Peñasco and San Carlos are not to be missed.

Monarch Butterfly Breeding Sites - Protected natural areas in the highlands of the state of Michoacán. Millions of butterflies come to the area between November and March of each year, although numbers have declined sharply recently. See them before they're all gone. Enjoy the natural biodiversity at the Agua Blanca Canyon Resort.

Sumidero Canyon - From docks on the Rio Grivalva (the only major river within Mexico) near Tuxtla Gutiérrez in Chiapas state, tour launches take you into this steep-walled National Park. You'll likely see vast flocks of flamingos, pelicans, and other waterfowl, as well as crocodiles.

The most important archaelogical sites are very well reserved over the years and their view is really imposing. It is also importan to mention that excavations bring into the light more and more new archaeological sites. Let's make a stop here and highlight the most important ones: 

Chichen Itza - Majestic Mayan city, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and recently voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Coba - Majestic Mayan city, located around two lagoons.

Templo Mayor - ruins of the pre-Hispanic Aztec pyramids of Tenochtitlan, located in the center of Mexico City.

Ek Balam - Recently reconstructed Mayan site, famous for its unique decorated stucco and stone carved temples.

El Tajín - In the state of Veracruz near the town of Papantla. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Guanajuato - In the state of Guanajuato, two sites making part of the "Tradición él Bajío": Plazuelas and Peralta.

Monte Albán - In the state of Oaxaca, a Zapotec site dating from about 500BC. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Palenque - Mayan city in the state of Chiapas, Palenque famous for its elaborate paintings. Also well known for having the largest tract of rainforest in Mexico located in the same area.

Teotihuacan - In the state of Mexico, near Mexico City. Enormous site with several large pyramids.

Tulum - Mayan coastal city with spectacular Caribbean vistas. Dates from late Mayan period.

Uxmal - Impressive Mayan city-state in the Puc Region, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

 

Entering Mexico

From the U.S or Canada, there are hundreds of daily flights linking Mexico to cities large and small throughout the United States.

For Canadian residents both Air Canada, West Jet, and many charter airlines such as Air Transat and Sunwing offer nonstop flights from most of Canada to many popular vacation destinations in Mexico such as Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and San José del Cabo. In addition, Aeromexico and Air Canada also offer nonstop flights to Mexico City from Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver.

As with the United States, you will have to clear both immigration and customs at your first point of entry in Mexico, even though that airport may not be your final destination. (For example, many trips on Aeromexico will involve connecting through its Mexico City hub.) You will then have to re-check your bags and possibly go through security again to proceed to your next flight segment.

In case that you fly from Australia or New Zealand. Fly from either Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or Auckland(NZ) direct to Los Angeles. Delta, Qantas, United, and V Australia offer non-stop air service from Australia to Los Angeles. Air New Zealand offers one-stop air service from Australia and non-stop air service from Auckland to Los Angeles. Hawaiian Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui offer one- or two-stop air service to Los Angeles from Australia and New Zealand.

Many airlines fly from Los Angeles to Mexico including AeroMexico, Alaska, Volaris, Horizon, Aerolitoral, and United. More options are available if connecting through another U.S. city. Also, make sure to have a good look at visas beforehand. Even just for transit, you will need an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) or transit visa for the USA, and if you get a visa waiver, they treat Mexico as part of the USA, meaning if you stay longer than 90 days in Mexico, you will need to travel further south before returning to the USA.

Many airlines fly from Los Angeles to Mexico including AeroMexico, Alaska, Volaris, Horizon, Aerolitoral, and United. More options are available if connecting through another U.S. city. Also, make sure to have a good look at visas beforehand. Even just for transit, you will need an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) or transit visa for the USA, and if you get a visa waiver, they treat Mexico as part of the USA, meaning if you stay longer than 90 days in Mexico, you will need to travel further south before returning to the USA.

Travelling from Europe. Many commercial airlines link Mexico directly to Europe. It is always worthwhile to compare flight offers from air carriers who can bring you to Mexico City or Cancun via many European hubs, like London, Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, and Rome; the flight duration from those cities is always approximately 11 hours (plus your connecting flight from home if you are not originating at one of those hubs.)

Travelling from Asia Aeromexico and All Nippon Airways both have nonstop flights from Tokyo-Narita to Mexico City, and Aeromexico also offers a flight from Shanghai-Pudong to Mexico City with a stopover in Tijuana. However, it is usually cheaper to fly from Asia to the US first and then catch a connecting flight into Mexico, though transiting through the US is generally not recommended (See Avoiding a transit of the United States).

Travelling by train.There is at least one place where Mexico is accessible via rail and a short walk - south of San Diego. The San Diego Trolley can be taken from downtown San Diego (which Amtrak serves) to the California-Baja California border. (note: El Paso/Juarez is also well served by Amtrak, the station is within a stone's throw of the Rio Grande)

Like almost all countries in the Americas, Mexico phased out intercity passenger rail in the mid-20th century and has not brought it back since. Thus, unlike the US-Canada border where you can ride a train from Seattle to Vancouver or New York to Montreal, there are no options for taking an Amtrak train across the border into any Mexican cities.

Travelling by car. American automobile insurance is not accepted in Mexico; however, it is easy to obtain short-term or long-term tourist policies that include the mandatory liability coverage, together with theft and accident cover for your vehicle and, often, legal assistance cover. Should you decide to drive to Mexico, the Transport and Communications Secretariat website has free downloadable road maps.

Foreign-plated vehicles must obtain the necessary permits before being allowed into the interior of Mexico. This can be done at the border checkpoints by showing your vehicle title or registration, as well as immigration documents and a valid credit card. It is now possible to apply for your vehicle import permit online and can be obtained at some Mexican consulates within the US. Vehicle permits will only be issued to the registered owner of the vehicle, so the papers will have to be in the name of the applicant. Once you complete the form, you can choose to have your vehicle permit mailed to you so you can have it before you get to the border or, you can simply print the form and present it to the Banjército official when you get to the border. The Baja California peninsula and the northern part of the State of Sonora do not require a permit.

It is also necessary to obtain Mexican auto insurance in order to drive in Mexico, as US and Canadian auto insurance policies are not accepted in Mexico, and any minor accident could land you in jail without it. BusyCactus.com, Lewis and Lewis, Sanborns Insurance, Oscar Padilla, and AAA offer Mexican auto insurance.

Due to the incredibly high volume of drugs and illegal immigration (into the US) and drug money and weapons (into Mexico) crossing the US-Mexico border, expect long delays and thorough searches of vehicles when crossing the border. At some of the busiest crossings, expect a delay of one to four hours.

Travelling by bus. The Mexican intercity bus system is reportedly the most efficient in the world. There are many different independent companies but all use a central computerized ticketing system. Rates per kilometer are generally comparable to those of Greyhound in the US, but there are more departures and the system serves much smaller villages than its American counterpart. There are many bus companies based in Mexico with branch offices in major US cities and/or provide cross-border transport with a few such examples noted below:

Omnibus Mexicanos

El Expresso

El Paso-Los Angeles Limousine Express operates buses along I-10 between Los Angeles and El Paso and anywhere in between in the American Southwest. They offer onward travel from El Paso to Chihuahua on Los Limousines

Turimex Internacional

TUFESA Bus Lines

Greyhound Lines, Autobus Americanos and Cruceros operates the Autobus Americanos (U.S. side) and the Crueceros USA brands.

Grupo Estrella Blanca operates the Elite, Chihuahuanese, Pacifico, Futura, Transportes Nort de Sonora (TNS), Transportes Frontera, Oriente, Autobus Americanos (Mexican side) and, of course, 'Estrella de Blanca' brands.

Greyhound offers tickets from the US to major Mexican cities, including Monterrey, Queretaro, Durango, Mazatlan, Torreon, Mexico City with onwards travel with Grupo Estrella Blanca south of the border and vice verse from Mexico north. It is best (and cheapest) to buy a round-trip Greyhound ticket since it may be more difficult and expensive to buy a ticket from Mexico to a US destination which is not a major city. When departing from Mexico, the local bus line (usually Futura) will change the Greyhound-issued ticket into its own, free of charge.

There are other bus companies offering transborder service from Guatemala to Tapachula or Comitan in Chiapas state and from Belize to Chetumal

ADO/OCC operates once daily buses from Merida and Cancun, via Chetumal to Belize City. Nearest to the U.S. border is in Matamoros where passenger transfer to Greyhound Lines for the onward trip north.

Linea Dorada goes across from Guatemala City to the Guatemala side of La Mesilla/Ciudad Cuauhtemoc in La Mesilla and once daily to/from Tapachula. From the Mexican side there are taxis or combis (shared ride vans) down to the Mexican immigration station in Ciudad Cuauhtemoc.

Tica Bus runs the length of the Central American isthmus from Panama City to Tapachula stopping at every Central American capital city and select towns or cities along the way except Belize.

Trans Galgos Inter goes from Guatemala City to Tapchula via Rethaluleau and El Carmen/Talisman crossing.

Travelling to Mexico by boat it is also possible through border crossing from Guatemala or with cruise ships from the United States.

 

Visa

According to the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores), certain foreign nationals who intend to stay in Mexico fewer than 180 days for the purpose of tourism or 30 days for business can fill out a tourist card at the border or upon landing at an airport after presenting a valid passport, without fee. If arriving via air, it is included in the price of the fare. This service is available to citizens of Andorra, Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahamas,Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein,Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay and Venezuela (see official list).

Visitors to Mexico are processed at all land and air entry points by officials of the Instituto Nacional de Migración (National Institute of Migration), a unit of the Secretaría de Gobernación (Secretariat of the Interior). These are the names you will see prominently displayed at those entry points.

The current Mexican tourist card is formally known as a Forma Migratoria Múltiple (Multiple Immigration Form), or FMM. The current FMM design as of 2014 is a tall rectangular card. If you are flying into the country, the FMM fee is normally included as part of the ticket price and the FMM forms will be distributed while in-flight. The FMM form has a perforation that divides the card into two parts; the lower part asks for some of the same information requested on the top part. At entry, after reviewing your passport and filled-out FMM, the INM officer will run the machine-readable part of your passport's information page followed by the barcode on the FMM form through a scanner on his computer, stamp your passport and the FMM, separate the FMM along the perforation and give the bottom portion of the FMM back to you with your passport.

Keep the FMM together with your passport at all times. Under Mexican law, it is your responsibility to ensure the bottom portion of the FMM is returned to the Mexican government at the time of departure so that the barcode can be scanned, thus showing that you left the country on time. For example, if you are flying with Aeromexico, they may ask for your passport and FMM at check-in for your flight home, then staple your FMM to your boarding pass. You are expected to then hand the boarding pass together with your FMM to the gate agent as you board your flight. If you lose your FMM during your visit to Mexico, you may be subject to substantial delays and an MXN500 fine before you can leave the country.

An Electronic authorization visa (Autorización Electrónica) for traveling to Mexico is available on the Internet for nationals from Turkey, Ukraine, and Russia. Other nationalities must contact a Mexican consulate in order to find out the requirements for citizens of their country and may have to apply for and obtain a visa in advance of travel. If you are in need of other information, Mexico has diplomatic offices in many cities around the world. The consulates in the USA are typically open for business to non-citizens (by telephone or in-person) only 08:30-12:30.

Holders of Indian passports can obtain a visitor visa on arrival in Mexico when in possession of a valid tourist visa for the USA.

If you cross the border via road, do not expect the authorities to automatically signal you to fill out your paperwork. You will have to find the closest INM office and go through the appropriate procedures on your own to pay the appropriate fee and obtain a valid FMM before proceeding beyond the border zone (roughly 32 kilometers past the land border with certain exceptions). Unfortunately, because the Mexican government does not trust its own officials to handle money, INM offices at land ports of entry cannot directly accept payment of the FMM fee. Rather, you have to first obtain a form from the INM office, go to a nearby bank to pay the FMM fee (some Mexican banks have constructed branches within walking distance of INM offices for this purpose), obtain proof of payment, and then return to the INM office to obtain your FMM.

In addition, as noted above, if you are driving your own vehicle, you will have to obtain a temporary importation permit before you can drive it beyond the border zone.

The INM officer at your point of entry into Mexico can also request that you demonstrate that you have sufficient economic solvency and (if you are entering by air) a round-trip ticket.

If you do not intend to travel past the border zone and your stay will not exceed three days, US and Canadian nationals need only present proof of citizenship and need not obtain an FMM at the border. Re-entry into the United States generally requires a passport, but a US or Canadian Enhanced Drivers License (or Enhanced Photo ID) or US passport card is acceptable for re-entry by land or sea.

 

Getting around by car

The legal driving age in Mexico is 16 with parental supervision and 18 without supervision.

Due to a government scheme in the early 1990s to create infrastructure, the best roads are toll roads. Toll roads can be relatively costly (MXN400-800 is common on longer trips) but are much faster and better maintained. First-class buses generally travel by toll roads (and the toll is obviously included in the ticket price).

In Major destinations such as Cancun, Puerto Vallarta or Los Cabos, there are some companies such as Olympus tours offering private and shared transportation from airports and to the principal attractions.

US vehicle insurance is not valid in Mexico, and while Mexican auto insurance is not required, it is highly recommended, as any minor accident could land you in jail without it. Lewis and Lewis, Sanborns Insurance, Oscar Padilla, and AAA offer Mexican auto insurance.

When traveling on Mexican roads, especially near the borders with the United States and Guatemala, you'll probably encounter several checkpoints operated by the Mexican Army searching for illegal weapons and drugs. If you're coming from the United States, you may not be used to this, and it can be intimidating. However, these are rarely a problem for honest people. Simply do what the soldiers tell you to do, and treat them with respect. The best way to show respect when entering a checkpoint is to turn your music down, lift sunglasses from your face, and be prepared to roll your window down. They should treat you with respect as well, and they usually do. If you are asked to unpack any part of your vehicle, do so without complaint. It's their right to make you completely unload in order for them to inspect your cargo.

Tourists are often warned about travelling on roads at night. Although bandidos are rare in more metropolitan areas, err on the side of caution in more rural areas. The best bet is to drive during only daylight hours. Cattle, dogs, and other animals also can appear on the roadway unexpectedly, so if you do have to drive at night, be very cautious. If possible, follow a bus or truck that seems to be driving safely.

Car Rental Companies in Mexico are everywhere in the big cities and airports making it easy to get a rental car while travelling through Mexico. Some of the biggest car rental companies in Mexico are Sixt rent a car, Avis, Hertz, and several other big brand car rental companies.

The Secretariat of Communication and Transport recently set up a new mapping tool similar to those in the US like Mapquest, its name is Traza Tu Ruta and is very helpful to find how to get to your destination using Mexico's roads. It is in Spanish but can be used with basic knowledge of the language.

Foreign drivers' licenses are recognized and recommended. Speeding tickets are common, and to ensure your presence at the hearing, the officer may choose to keep your license. He is within his rights to do so. Beware though, police officers are known to keep driver's licenses until they are given a bribe.

At petrol (gas) stations, make sure the pump is zeroed out before the attendant begins pumping your gas so that you don't end up paying more than you should. There is only one brand of gas station (Pemex) and prices are generally the same regardless of location, so don't bother shopping around.

Good maps are invaluable and the Mexico maps included in "North American Road Atlas" books are worse than useless. The Guia Roji maps are particularly good.

See also: Driving in Mexico

Getting around by plane

Mexico is a large country and the low-cost revolution that started in 2005 (following the break up of the CINTRA monopoly, which owned Mexicana and Aeromexico, in 2000) meant that fares were often ridiculously cheap during the first decade of the 2000s if one booked in advance.

Thanks to the Great Recession and soaring fuel prices, the bargain days are mostly gone. Still, one can still find an occasional bargain by using a reliable notification service such as Kayak.com or monitoring the airlines' respective websites. Only Aeromexico's and Volaris's fares are currently syndicated on Kayak, Skyscanner and other similar sites.

The main full-service airlines are:

Aeromar

AeroMexico, Aeromexico connect (formerly Aerolitoral)

Magnicharters

TAR

Then there are also the low-cost carriers such as:

Interjet

Volaris

VivaAerobus

Other smaller regional/commuter carriers operating mainly non-jet aircraft include:

Aereo Calafia serves the northwestern states of Baja Calfornia Sur y Norte, Sonora, Sinaloa, & Jalisco (Pto Vallarta).

Aerotucan travels between Oaxaca, Pto Escondido, Huatulco, & Tuxtla Gutierrez

Aero Pacifico serves the cities of Culiacan, La Paz, Los Mochis, & Chihuahua.

Mayair flies between Cancun, Cozumel, Merida, Villahermosa, & Veracruz.

Always check the individual carrier's Web site to verify where they currently fly. Carriers such as Mexicana, Taesa, Aerocalifornia, Alma de Mexico, Líneas Aéreas Azteca, Aviacsa, and Avolar are no longer in business.

 

Getting around by bus

If traveling by bus, be sure to take the express buses, if available (they are called directo). Other buses often stop at many smaller stations along the way, making the trip a lot longer. If you have experience with Greyhound buses in the US, you're in for a pleasant surprise. First class buses are usually direct routes and are the best option for most. These buses are comfortable, have washrooms and will generally show movies, which may or may not be English with Spanish subtitles. Second class buses may be very similar to 1st class just making more stops or in rural areas they may be essentially chicken buses (polleros). Executive and Luxury lines cost about 60% more than first class, may be faster, usually have larger seats, and they have less frequent departures; they are really only a good option for elderly or business travelers. With the advent of NAFTA, some bus companies are now offering service from US cities. The major bus companies offering these kinds of services are:

ABC (Autobuses de la Baja California). goes up and down the Baja California Peninsula between Tijuana, Mexicali, La Paz, Los Cabos and anywhere in between. 

ADO (Autobuses De Oriente). operates as ADO, ADO GL, AU, OCC (Omnibus Cristobal Colon), Platino, and some of the local second-class lines in the eastern and southeastern part of the country. They operate mainly in Guerrero, Puebla, Veracruz, Chiapas, Tamaulipas, Tabasco, and the Yucatan Peninsula (Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche). 

Autovias, Herredura Plus, 01 800 622 22 22.

Grupo Estrella Blanca. operates mainly in Aguascaliente, Baja California Norte, Chihuahua, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michocoan, Nayrit, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora & Zacatecas states and up to the U.S. border. They operate brands such as Elite, TNS (Norte de Sonora), Chihuahuanese, Futura, Pacifico, Oriente, Tranporte Frontera and Americanos as well as a booking agent for onward travel to the U.S. on Greyhound lines. 

Estrella de Oro. Guerrero, Veracruz, DF; and Hidalgo states.

Estrella Roja. travels mainly between Mexico City and Puebla.

Grupo Flecha Roja, Aguila. operates mainly between Mexico City and various places in Mexico, Hidalgo and Queretaro states

FYPSA (Autobuses Fletes y Pasajes S.A. de C.V.). Chiapas, DF, Oaxaca.

Omnibus de México. 

ETN (Enlances Terrestre Nacionales), Turistar Lujo, 01 800 8000 386

Grupo Senda, 01 800 890 90 90. Aguascaliente, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Jalisco, Mexico (state), Nuevo Leon, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas & Zacatecas states and the U.S. states of Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, & Texas  

TUFESA, 01 800 737 88 83. Baja California Norte, Jalisco, Nayrit, Sinaloa & Sonora in Mexico and Arizona, California & Nevada in the USA 

Primera Plus, Flecha Amarilla. Aguascaliente, Durango, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Nayrit, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa & Zacatecas states 

Travellers heading east (more or less) from Mexico City (TAPO bus terminal) can find ticket information on TicketBus. Other destinations can be found on individual companies' websites (see above). Schedules for all Mexico are available at horariodebuses

On the other hand if traveling within a city, you won't find a pleasant surprise. You will find one of the most chaotic public transport systems full of the popular "peseros". "Peseros" are small buses with varying color codes depending on the city you are in. Usually, the route is written on cardboard attached to the windshield/windscreen or written in soap or chalk on the windshield listing out the places (hospital, university, shopping centers, a major landmark, the name of neighborhoods, etc) the bus goes through or by. Unlike in many countries, bus stops are uncommon and you are expected to signal the bus to pick you up and drop you off wherever you want. You will rarely find a stop button in a pesero; just shout the word "baja" for it to stop. Fares are cheap and vary from MXN2-7 approximately.

 

Getting around by train

Passenger trains are very limited in Mexico with only a few lines in operation in places like the Copper Canyon in the northern state of Chihuahua. That line is known as the Chihuahua Pacific Railway (Chihuahua del Pacifico) which pull out every morning from both ends of the line, one from Los Mochis on the Pacific coast, across from Baja California, and the other from Chihuahua in the east (due south of El Paso, Texas). They pass each other roughly midways at Divisadero and Barrancas Copper Canyon stations at an altitude of 2100m (7000 ft). This route travels between Chihuahua city, Los Mochis and Topolobampo (near the coast) in Sinaloa state through the Copper Canyon.

In the state of Jalisco, there is also a line which travels from the state capital city of Guadalajara to the tequila distilleries north of Amititlan, as a tour of the distilleries (then as a form of transportation), this is why this line is called the Tequila Express.

Mexico City and Monterrey have subway service, and it might be possible to hop aboard freight cars in some parts of the country (if you happen to be an adventurer. Immigrants from poorer regions of Mexico and from Central America heading up to the US ride the freight trains too).

Getting around alternatively

One upside of the high petroleum prices is that hitching is beginning to be more common in Mexico again, particularly in the rural areas. In areas near big cities, hitching should be more difficult and is not really advisable due to heightened risk.

BlaBlaCar can make ridesharing easier and safer, but you are most likely to find rides from and to Mexico City.

However, in village areas, this will be really possible and most likely a nice experience. Since villagers have always had a hard time affording gas, and nowadays many are turning to picking up paying hitchhikers as a way to afford the next trip into town. Baja, the Sierra Tarahumara and Oaxaca and Chiapas all have good possibilities for the hitchhiker.

Hitchhiking possibilities vary according to the region. Mexican culture is often accepting of hitchhiking and it's a common practice among Mexican youngsters going to the beach in Easter vacations, though in some cases a money contribution is expected for gas because of its relatively high prices. You should make it clear that you have no money to offer before accepting the ride if this is the case. If you're willing to pay, trucks will often provide lifts for about half the price of a bus ticket. Of course, you may be able to negotiate a better deal. Hitchhiking is considered fairly safe and easy in the Yucatan Peninsula.

 

Languages spoken

Spanish is used by virtually the whole population and all public communications (signs, documents, media, etc.) are conducted in the language. Bilingual signs in Spanish and English might be available in popular tourist destinations.

English is understood by many in Mexico City as well as by some tourist workers in popular tourist places, but nevertheless, most Mexicans don't speak English. Educated Mexicans, especially younger ones, and professional businessmen are the people most likely to speak some English. The most popular foreign languages to learn within Mexico after English are French, Italian, German and Japanese. Among clerks, policemen, and drivers (especially the last group) there is essentially no such thing as knowledge of foreign languages.

Mexico has one of the richest diversity of languages, with more of 60 indigenous languages spoken within the Mexican territory. These languages are spoken within the communities of these indigenous peoples, who are largely segregated from mainstream mestizo society. In any case, the probabilities of finding a speaker of any of these languages is small, since only half of 20% that comprises Indian population in Mexico speaks indigenous languages. On the other hand, most of these communities are fluent in Spanish as well. Therefore learning any of these indigenous languages is not indispensable at all; quite the opposite, unexpected and will gain a lot of respect from these communities. See also: Spanish phrasebook

 

Currency

The currency of Mexico is the peso (MXN), often symbolized as "$" (as the symbol originated from the Spanish empire) locally, divided into 100 centavos. Coins are issued in 5, 10 (steel), 20, 50 centavo (brass; new 50-centavo coins issued from 2011 on are steel and smaller in size) and 1, 2, 5 (steel ring, brass center), 10, 20, 50, and 100 peso (brass ring, steel or silver center) denominations, but it's extremely rare to find coins valued at more than 10 pesos.

What to do

As previously mntioned the multidiversity of the country, exposes tourists to many different activities around the country. We highlight some of them below:

Surfing - Baja California, Vallarta, Oaxaca

Sea Kayaking - Baja California

Snorkeling - Baja California, Cancun, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, etc.

Scuba diving - Baja California, Cancun, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas etc, and cave diving in the cenotes of the Yucatan peninsula.

Whale Watching - Baja California, Guerrero Negro, Mazunte, Zipolite

White Water Rafting - Veracruz

Visit a Volcano - Mexico, Toluca etc.

Take a ride on the Copper Canyon Railway

Enjoy the beautiful coast line and beaches of Oaxaca - Mazunte, Puerto EscondidoZipolite etc.

Go for a horseback ride in the Barrancas de Chihuahua

Visit the archaeological sites - Chichen Itza, Tulum, Coba, Monte Alban, Calakmul, Palenque, etc.

Fly on a hot air balloon - Over the Teotihuacan pyramids

Volunteering - Chiapas or in Xalapa, Veracruz with Travel to Teach.

Visit ecological parks - Mayan Riviera

trekking also cave paintings in Baja California - Guerrero Negro

Learn Spanish by taking language classes

National Sea Turtle Museum Mazunte

Go nude. Spend some time in Zipolite The only "official" nude beach in Mexico. Most people here are clothed, however. 

 

Food

Mexican cuisine can be described better as a collection of various regional cuisines rather than a standard list of dishes for the whole country. Because of climate, geography and ethnic differences, we can classify Mexican cuisine broadly in 4 great categories according to the region:

Northern - Mostly meat dishes are done mainly from beef and goat. This includes Cabrito, Carne Asada (Barbecue) and Arrachera. Is influenced by international cuisine (mostly from the United States and Europe), but it retains the essential Mexican flavor.

Central - This region is influenced by the rest of the country, but has its own well-developed local flavor in dishes such as Pozole, Menudo and Carnitas. Dishes are mostly corn-based and with different spices.

Southeastern - Is known for its spicy vegetable and chicken-based dishes. Caribbean cuisine has influences here because of the location.

Coast - Is composed heavily of seafood and fish, but corn-based recipes can be easily found as well.

Ask for the "platillo tipico" of the town, which is the local speciality that may not be found elsewhere, a variation, or the birthplace of a recipe, also consider that most of the recipes change from place to place, like tamales, in the south are made with the banana plant leaves, and in the Huasteca region tamales are very big, one is OK for a complete family.

Traditional Mexican food can often be very spicy; if you are not used to peppers, always ask if your food includes it. "(¿Esto tiene chile? Es picante?)."

There are many food carts on the streets of Mexican cities and towns. Travelers are advised to eat from these carts with caution, as hygienic preparation practices are not always reliable. In doing so, you may (or may not) find some of the most unique and genuinely Mexican dishes you've ever had. From these vendors, you may find tacos, burgers, bread, roasted field corn or elote served with mayonnaise, or a light cream, and sprinkled with fresh white cheese, roasted sweet potato called camote, and almost any kind of food and service you would imagine.

Chicharrón - Deep fried pork skin. Quite crunchy and if well-prepared slightly oily. Heavenly spread with guacamole. Or sometimes cooked in a mild chili sauce and served with eggs.

Enchiladas - Chicken or meat stuffed soft tortillas covered with green, red or mole sauce. Some may have melted cheese inside and/or on top.

Tacos - Soft corn tortillas filled with meat (asada (steak strips), pollo (shredded chicken), carnitas (fried shredded pork), lengua (tongue), cabeza (meat from cow skull), sesos (cow brains), tripa (cow gut), or pastor (chili pork beef). In the north sometimes flour tortillas are used. Do not expect the crispy taco shell anywhere.

Tamales - corn dough shell with meat or vegetable fillings. Tamales Dulces contain fruit and/or nuts.

Tortas - Fancy Mexican sandwich. Bread roll that is grilled lightly, meat fillings are same as tacos and/or American styled charcuterie, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeños, beans, onion, mayonnaise, and avocado.

Quesadillas - Cheese or other ingredients grilled in between corn tortillas. Note: heavy on cheese and lighter on other items such as chicken, pork, beans, squash flower blossoms and such.

Mole - Mild to a medium chili based sauce made with cocoa and a hint of peanut over meat, usually served with shredded chicken or turkey. ('Pollo en mole' and this is known as Puebla or poblano style). There are many regional moles and some are green, yellow, black and can vary greatly in flavor depending on the artistic talent or preferences involved.

Pozole - Chicken or pork broth with hominy corn, spiced when served with oregano, lettuce, lemon juice, radish, chopped onion, dried ground chile and other ingredients such as chicken, pork, or even seafood, usually served with a side dish of tostadas, fried potato, and fresh cheese tacos. When it is made with beef stomach and beef feet it is called Menudo. Menudo is often eaten at breakfast on weekends and is considered a hangover cure. Very fortifying.

Gorditas - corn patty stuffed with chicharron, chicken, cheese, etc. topped with cream, cheese, and hot sauce.

Guacamole - crushed avocado sauce with green serrano chile, chopped red tomato and onion, lime juice, salt, and served with somewhat thick (1/8 inch)fried tortilla slices or "totopos".

Tostadas - fried flat tortilla topped with fried beans, lettuce, cream, fresh cheese, sliced red tomato and onion, hot sauce, and chicken or other main ingredients. Think a corn chip dippers, on low dose steroids, for salsas and as above. Note that you do not usually get a plate of this automatically in many parts of Mexico as you would in the US, although they are starting to show up in resort areas that cater to US nationals automatically.

Huaraches - a bigger (think shoe shaped) version a gordita.

Sopes - corn patty topped with a wide variety of ingredients such as chicken, cheese, mashed beans, and various hot sauces.

Carnitas - deep fried pork meat served with a variety of salsa", to get them dry with less grease.

Chile en nogada - A big green Poblano chile with a beef or pork apple stuffing, covered with a white nut (usually walnut, known as nuez) sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds which happen to be red. The three colors represent the national flag and the dish is served nationwide around Mexican Independence Day 16th September.

Barbacoa - Sheep or goat meat cooked with maguey leaves in an oven made at a hole in the ground. Think BBQ heaven without the hickory smoke or catsup based BBQ sauce. Served with condiments and salsas in corn tortilas and sometimes in a torta bread roll.

Sopa de Tortilla - tortilla chips soup usually of chicken broth, plain or with a touch of tomato flavor, and usually mild and not at all hot. Commonly served with diced avocado and fresh crumbled white cheese on top.

Chilaquiles - tortilla chips with a green tomatillo, or red tomato, or mild chili sauce, usually served with chicken or eggs on top or within. Usually a mild dish.

Migas - is a typical dish in the center of the country which is a guajillo chile broth with soaked bread, which you can add the pork bones with meat or eggs.

You can measure the quality of food by popularity, do not eat in lonely places, even if they are restaurants or hotels. Consider that Mexicans eat their main meal in the middle of the afternoon (around 3 o'clock), with breakfast or "almuerzo", a mid-morning affair after a very light something, like a small plate of fruit or a roll with coffee, in the very early morning. Although, many Mexicans have large breakfasts in the morning. Later, at night the meal varies from very light, such as commonly sweet rolls or bread, coffee or hot chocolate, to heavy dinners, such as pozole, tacos, tamales, etc. Schedule your meals accordingly and you will get a better perspective on the gauge of how busy (popular) a restaurant is.

Drink

Non alcoholic beverages: Tap water is potable, but generally not recommended for drinking. Some exaggerated people even claim that tap water is not good for brushing teeth. Hotels usually give guests one (large) bottle of drinking water per room per night. Bottled water is also readily available in supermarkets and at tourist attractions.

  • Absinthe is legal in Mexico.
  • Tequila, distilled from agave (a specific type of succulent)
  • Pulque, ferment made from maguey
  • Mezcal, similar to tequila but distilled from oven-cooked agave
  • Tepache, made from pineapple
  • Tuba, made from coconut palm tree


There are also several Mexican beers, most of which are available outside Mexico, these include:

  • Corona (popular, but not necessarily as overwhelmingly popular in Mexico as many foreigners think)
  • Dos Equis (XX), dark or lager. (both good mass-market beers)
  • Modelo Especial (medium lager)
  • Negra Modelo (darker, flavorful ale)
  • Modelo Light (typical light Mexican beer - Corona, Pacifico and Tecate also have "light" versions.
  • Pacífico (Pilsner beer, one of the better lighter beers)
  • Tecate (perhaps the most common beer, especially in the north, light with a slight hoppy taste)
  • Indio (good amber, not commonly exported)
  • Bohemia (nice malty taste)
  • Carta Blanca (mass market beer)
  • Sol (very light, similar to Corona)
  • Superior (pretty common beer)
  • Victoria (A light Vienna-style beer, usually not exported)
  • Montejo
  • León (red Vienna-style beer)
  • Estrella
  • Corona "de Barril" or Barrillito (fun to drink)
  • Chamochelas
  • Modelo Chope (Draft beer only available in select bars & restaurants, comes in Light & Negra varieties, with the latter being a Munich dunkel.)

Lighter Mexican beers are often served with lime and salt, though many Mexicans do not drink beer in this fashion. In some places, you will find beer served as a prepared drink called "Michelada" or simply "Chelada". The formula varies depending on the place, but it's usually beer mixed with lime juice and various sauces and spices on ice served in a salt rim glass. Other variation called "Cubana" includes Clamato cocktail, soybean sauce, salt and a little bit of hot sauce.

Northwestern Mexico, especially Baja California and Sonora, is well-known for wine production. Mexican wine is often quite good, but most Mexicans tend to prefer European or Chilean imports.

  • Chocolate
  • Atole (traditional corn-based beverage)
  • Horchata (rice based drink)
  • Pozol (maiz based drink) - traditional drink from Chiapas
  • Tejate (maiz and chocolate based drink)- traditional drink from Oaxaca
  • Agua de jamaica (hibiscus iced tea, similar to karkadai in Egypt)
  • Licuados de fruta (fruit smoothies and milkshakes)
  • Champurrado (Thick chocolate drink)
  • Refrescos (common sodas, generally sweet and made with cane sugar, not corn syrup as in the United States).

The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18, but not strictly enforced. In many places, consumption of alcohol in public ("open container") is illegal and usually punishable by a day in jail. Be aware of waitresses and barmen, especially at nightclubs. If you are not aware of your consumption and how much you already spent, they can add a few more drinks to your account. Some do this, not all.

Sobriety checkpoints and breathalyzers are widespread in major cities and tourist hotspots. If drinking, always have a designated driver or take a taxi. Driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage will result in several days in jail.

Mexico, especially the southern state of Chiapas, produces excellent coffee. Café con leche, usually one part coffee to one part steamed milk, is very popular. Unfortunately, many places in Mexico that are not cafés serve Nescafe or other instant coffee - you may have to search for the good coffee, but it's there.

 

Where to sleep

A number of hotel chains are available throughout Mexico, including Palace Resorts, Le Blanc Spa Resort, Best Western, Holiday Inn, CityExpress, Fiesta Inn, Fairmont, Hilton, Ritz, Camino Real, Starwood (Sheraton, W, Westin, Four Points) and many others. Rates have risen considerably in recent years, though most are still reasonable compared to the similar US or European hotels. Chain accommodations are usually clean and comfortable, good for business travelers, but not necessarily for those wanting to experience Mexico itself. Smaller hotels and motels along the roadside may not be safe or comfortable. Boutique hotels are found all over the country; price range varies but all of them are rich in Mexican traditions, elegance, and charm, the perfect way to experience the cultural heritage of each state. A great source of information is Melba Levick's book Mexicasa, found in many libraries and online bookstores. There are also many all-inclusive resorts for those visiting the major beach destinations.

There is a large backpacker culture in Mexico, and there are many hostels offering dorm accommodation and private rooms. You can expect to pay between MXN50 and MXN150 for a night in a dorm, often including breakfast. Hostels are a fantastic place to share information with fellow travelers, and you can often find people who have been to your future destinations. There are a number of internet sites that allow you to book hostels in advance for a small fee, and this is becoming an increasingly common practice.

The most authentic accommodation can usually be found by asking locals or gringos, especially in the smaller towns. If you are unsure about the safety or conditions of the room ask to see it before paying. This will not be considered rude.

If you are going to be in cooler areas in the winter consider bringing an electric blanket - as there is power, but no heat in the cheaper hotels. And although it may get quite hot by afternoon outside, adobe and cement are like fridges. An electric tea kettle is also a good idea, hot water might not be available when you want it.

If you're traveling with children, use a plastic case (with wheels and a handle) as luggage, and it can be used as a bathtub for the kids if necessary. Budget hotels rarely, if ever, have bathtubs.

Health and Safety

'Mexico's emergency number is 066, call this number for any emergency service: such as police, medical, fire, etc.

In most of the cities, location is very important as security changes from place to place. Areas close to downtown (centro) are safer to walk at night, especially on the "Plaza", "Zocalo" or "Jardin" (main square) and areas nearby. Stay in populated areas, avoid poor neighborhoods, especially at night, and don't walk there at any time if you are alone. Vicious beatings have been reported at resorts by people who have traveled alone, so stay alert for any suspicious-looking individual.

Since 2006 violence related to drug cartels has become an issue; see Drug Traffic Issues below.

Political violence in Chiapas and Oaxaca has abated in recent years and is far less of a threat than the drug-related crime. However, keep in mind that Mexican authorities do not look approvingly on foreigners who participate in demonstrations (even peaceful ones) or voice support for groups such as the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional and its leader, Subcomandante Marcos, even if their images and slogans are commonly sold on t-shirts and caps in markets.

As in any city, do not wave cash or credit cards around. Use them discreetly and put them away as quickly as possible.

The Mexican legal system was until recently under the Napoleonic code, but if you ever find yourself in trouble with the law in Mexico, the punishments are a lot more severe than in many other countries.

Beggars are not usually a threat, but you will find lots of urban areas. Avoid being surrounded by them as some can pickpocket your goods. Giving away two pesos quickly can get you out of such troubles (but may also attract other beggars). Most poor and homeless Mexicans prefer to sell trinkets, gum, sing or provide some meager service than beg outright.

Some cities, such as Guadalajara and Mexico City, are safer than most places in Mexico. However, caution is still recommended.

Understand that the country is going through a transitionary period. After president Felipe Calderon came to power in 2006, he declared war on the drug cartels, and they have waged war in turn against the government (and more often, among each other). If you are going into Mexico, be considerate bringing up this issue with your hosts or Mexican friends. Many people do not wish to discuss their country's numerous problems.

Some Mexican northern and border cities such as Tijuana, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo, Chihuahua, Culiacán, Durango, and Juárez can be dangerous if you are not familiar with them, especially at night. Most crime in the northern cities is related to the drug trade and/or police corruption. However, since law enforcement figures are so overwhelmed or involved in the drug business themselves, many northern border towns that were previously somewhat dangerous, to begin with are now a hotbed for criminals to act with impunity. Ciudad Juárez, in particular, bears the brunt of this violence, with nearly a quarter of Mexico's overall murders, and travel there should be undertaken only for very important reasons and with extreme caution.

Away from the northern states, cartel-related violence is centered in specific areas, including the Pacific Coast states of Michoacán and Guerrero. However, exercise caution in any major city, especially at night or in high crime areas.

Note that for the most part tourists and travelers are of no interest to the drug cartels. Many popular tourist destinations like Oaxaca, Guanajuato, Los Cabos, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, Cancún, Mérida, and Guadalajara are largely unaffected by this, simply because there are no borders there. Ciudad Juárez is currently a primary battleground in the drug war, and while foreign travelers are not often targeted here, the presence of two warring cartels, many small opportunistic gangs, and armed police and soldiers has created a chaotic situation, to say the least.

Although rarely surprising, the drug violence's new victim is Monterrey. The city at one point was crowned the safest city in Latin America, and the hard-working environment and entrepreneurial spirit were what defined the city for most Mexicans. Today, it has been the latest city to fall into the hands of the drug gangs, and deadly shootouts existed even in broad daylight. People have been kidnapped even in broad daylight in high-profile upscale hotels. The situation has dramatically changed since 2011, but the city has still not fully recovered.

Strangely, Mexico City is the safest city in regard to drug-related violence, and people go there to seek refuge from the border violence because many politicians and the military are there.

Consumption of drugs is not recommended while you are in Mexico because although possession of small amounts of all major narcotics has been decriminalized, consumption in public areas will get you a fine and will most likely get you in trouble with the police. The army also sets up random checkpoints throughout all major highways in search of narcotics and weapons. Drug consumption is also frowned upon by a large percentage of the population.

Since the current drug war began in 2006, there have been occasional wild speculation in the North American English-language media about the risk that Mexico could become a "failed state" controlled directly by one or more drug cartels, with the obvious corollary that U.S. citizens would have to be evacuated with U.S. military assistance (as actually occurred in Liberia in 1990, Sierra Leone in 1992, Albania in 1997, Lebanon in 2006, and Haiti in 2010). As a result, most U.S. border states have publicly acknowledged preparing detailed contingency plans for that possibility, which would require the deployment of a massive number of National Guard troops to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and deal with thousands of Mexican refugees seeking asylum in the U.S.

However, apart from the notorious exception of a single elite military unit that changed sides and became the Los Zetas cartel, the vast majority of Mexican military and police units continue to demonstrate their loyalty to the democratically elected federal government in Mexico City. As of 2012, only three state governments (out of 31 states) are thought to have been compromised by the cartels (according to the Los Angeles Times). Furthermore, as of 2013, the country's security situation has improved significantly under President Enrique Pena Nieto, to the extent where heavily armed soldiers are not frequently seen as they used to be in major tourist areas like Los Cabos and Cancun. Thus, the actual probability of an unexpected regime change occurring during your visit is extremely low and should not discourage you from visiting Mexico.

Jellyfish stings: vinegar or mustard on the skin, take some to the beach with you.

Stingray stings: water as hot as you can bear - the heat deactivates the poison.

Sunburns: Bring sunscreen if going to beaches because you might not find it available in some areas.

Riptides: Very dangerous, particularly during and after storms. Try to swim parallel to the beach even as you are being dragged out; eventually, the tide will let go of you and then you can swim back to shore. Do not tire yourself out by trying to swim to shore as the tide is pulling you out, as you will not have the energy to swim back to shore after the tide has let go of you.

When in major cities – especially Mexico City – is better to play it safe with taxis. The best options are to phone a taxi company, request that your hotel or restaurant call a taxi for you or pick up a Taxi from an established post ("Taxi de Sitio"). Also, taxis can be stopped in the middle of the street, which is OK for most of the country, but might be unsafe in Mexico City.

As chaotic as it might be sometimes, the subway (Metro) is the best way to move around in Mexico City: it's cheap (MXN5 for a ticket as of Dec 2013), safe, has a large network covering almost anywhere you'd want to go in the city and it's extremely fast, compared to any on-street transportation, since it doesn't have to bear with the constant traffic jams. If you've never been in a crowded subway, avoid peak hours (usually from 06:00-09:00 and 17:00-20:00) and do your homework: check first what line (línea) and station (estación) you want to go to and the address of the place you're trying to reach. Your hotel can give you this information, and maps of the subway system are available on the internet and at the stations. Most stations also have maps of the vicinity.

Avoid taking the subway at late hours of the night, but during the day many stations are patrolled by police officers and the subway is safer than taking the public bus, your major concern in the subway are pickpockets; so keep your important belongings and wallets in a safe place.

If you are traveling by bus do not put your valuables in your big bag in the storage room of the bus. If the police or the military controls the luggage they might take out what they need. Especially in Night Buses when passengers are most likely asleep. The use of a money belt (worn underneath the clothes and out of sight) is highly recommended. On some bus routes in Mexico (especially between cities) police may come in on the bus and film passengers on camera - that is a security measure, nothing to worry about. It is also a good idea to come in 10-15 minutes prior to departure of long-haul buses as sometimes they leave a few minutes earlier than scheduled.

If driving in from the USA, always purchase Mexican liability insurance (legal defense coverage recommended) before crossing the border or immediately after crossing. When you are paying for your temporary import permit (for going beyond border areas), often in the same building there are several stalls selling Mexican auto insurance. Even if your American (or Canadian, etc.) insurance covers your vehicle in Mexico, it cannot (by Mexican law) cover liability (i.e. hitting something or injuring someone). You will probably spend time in a Mexican jail if you are involved in an automobile crash without it. And even if your own insurance does (in theory) provide liability coverage in Mexico -- you'll be filing your claim from behind bars! Don't risk it, get Mexican auto insurance.

Never drive above the speed limit or run stop signs/red lights as Mexican police will use any excuse to pull over tourists and give you a ticket. If pulled over by a police officer soliciting a bribe, do not pay the amount requested, but pull out USD50 or MXN500, and explain that it is all you have. This technique has worked in the past (but it does not work in Mexico City), but it is corruption. Corruption also is a crime in Mexico, so make a conscious choice. The fine for speeding could be as much as USD100, depending on the city.

As of April 2011, police across the country are cracking down on drunken driving, particularly in Mexico City, the larger cities, and the beach resorts. There are random checkpoints throughout the country in which every driver has to stop and take an automated inebriation test. If you fail, you will end up in a Mexican prison. If you wouldn't drive drunk back home, don't do it in Mexico.

You will mostly find beggars and windshield cleaners in some red lights; having your windows closed at all times is especially recommendable in some areas of Mexico City. The windshield cleaners will try to clean yours: a strong and firm "NO" is suggested.

Some parts of Mexico are known for travellers' diarrhea that it is often called "Montezuma's Revenge" (Venganza de Moctezuma). The reason for this is not so much the spicy food but the contamination of the water supply in some of the poorer zones in Mexico. In most of the small towns that are less industrialized, only the poorest Mexicans will drink tap water. The best policy is to only drink bottled or purified water, both of which are readily available. Be sure to specify bottled water in restaurants and avoid ice (which is often not made from purified water). Just like in the USA, in most major Mexican cities the water is purified at the cities' water company. In most restaurants in these poor zones, the only water served comes from large jugs of purified water. If you get sick, visit your local clinic as soon as possible. There is medicine available that will counter the bacteria.

Medicine in urban areas is highly developed, public hospitals are just as good as public hospitals in the US, and just as the American public hospitals, they are always full. It's recommended going to private hospitals for faster service.

Before traveling to rural areas of Mexico, it might be a good idea to obtain anti-malarial medications from your health care provider. The US "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" also have recommendations for vaccines and staying healthy when traveling to Mexico.

It is strongly advised that the traveler be sure that any meats they are consuming have been thoroughly cooked due to an increasing rate of roundworm infections, particularly in the Acapulco area.

Along with the risk for malaria, mosquitoes have also been known to carry the West Nile virus. Be sure to bring an effective insect repellent, preferably one that contains the ingredient DEET.

The rate of AIDS/HIV infection in Mexico is lower than in the US, France, and most Latin American nations.

As with any western location, cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome have been reported throughout Mexico. This is an acute, rare (but often fatal) illness for which there is no known cure. The virus is believed to be present in animal feces, particularly feces from members of the rodent family. Therefore, do not wander into animal dens and be especially careful when entering enclosed spaces that are not well ventilated and lack sunlight.

Vaccination against Hepatitis A & B and Typhoid fever is recommended.

If you are bitten by an animal, assume that the animal was carrying rabies and seek medical attention immediately for treatment.

In remote areas, carry a first aid kit, aspirin, and other related items are sold without medical prescription.

 

Contact

You can call from public phones using prepaid tel. cards tarjetas ladatel, bought at magazine stalls. Cards can be purchased in MXN30, 50 or 100 denominations. The rate to call the US is roughly equivalent to USD0.50 per minute. Beware these are different than tarjetas amigo, viva, or unefon: they are for cell phones.

Some areas have only a few internet cafes; in others, they are plentiful. Common fees vary from MXN7/h to MXN20/h. Currently, most of the internet cafes offer calls to the US for a better rate than a payphone, usually via VoIP.

If you have an unlocked GSM phone, you can buy a prepaid SIM card in Mexico and have a local mobile phone number for use in cases of emergency. ROAMFREE Mobile provides free travel phones with good coverage throughout the country and you can get a SIM card for MXN150 with MXN100 talk time, look them up on the Internet before you leave. If you have an iPhone, you should purchase a package of data with ROAMFREE Mobile, as pay-as-you-go internet is extremely expensive. For an unlocked phone, you can also buy a Telcel SIM (e.g. in one of Telcel offices) for 200 pesos which have 1GB of data, calls, and SMS, with coverage across Mexico. Note that you might not be able to recharge the SIM bought in one region (e.g. Mexico City) in another (e.g. Tulum) and might need to get a new one for 100 pesos.

It is often far cheaper than what hotels will charge you and incoming calls may also be free under certain schemes. Mexico operates on the same GSM frequency as the United States, 1900Mhz. Wireless Internet connections are available in almost every major restaurant, hotel, and shopping mall in the big cities.

If you're staying for over a week and don't have an unlocked phone, it might be a good idea to buy a cheap (<MXN200) handset and buy a prepaid card. Here it would be advisable to not purchase a Telcel card (biggest company and usually cheaper cards) but from some other company who does not charge you roaming costs if you are not in the city you bought it.

In case you read this article and you found it fascinating, you may proceed and have a small break during December.

Mexico Winter break

Last but not least, every good trip starts with the nice mood and of course the right preparation. Make sure that you have managed to get all your documents and also get the best accessories and gadgets, in order to make your trip a smart, comfortable but mostly a safe experience!

Visit tripatricks.com for more gadgets and accessories, and participate in the big Sale 20% off in all electronic and pet travel products (in case that you are traveling with your buddy).

Now that you know it all, go and get it! 

tripatricks.com

 

(Source: wikitravel)

Malta winter wellness break.

Malta winter wellness break.

Hello everyone,

We start this blog a bit extraordinary, by recommending you a summer destination almost in the heart of winter. We have found some nice offers that we'd like to share with you at the end of this post. But let's start because the place has a lot to say...

Malta is a small, island country in the Mediterranean Sea that lies south of the island of Sicily, Italy. Malta is an archipelago, but only the three largest islands of Malta, Gozo (Għawdex) and Kemmuna (Comino) are inhabited.

 

The history

Though small, Malta has a rich history, with evidence of habitation going back to the Neolithic era (4th millennium BC). The country has some of the world's most ancient standing buildings (the Neolithic temples), and its strategic location and good harbors in the middle of the Mediterranean have attracted Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Crusaders, the French and finally the British, with the colonial period lasting until 1964.

The Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, also known as the Knights Hospitallers and Knights of Malta, took over sovereign control of Malta in 1530, and by 1533 the Order had built a hospital at Birgu (one of the Three Cities) to care for the sick. In 1565, Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, mounted a great siege of Malta with a fleet of 180 ships and a landing force of 30,000 men. In response, the Order, with only 8,000 defenders, drove the Ottoman Turks away after a hard siege of several months. After this siege, the Order founded the city of Valletta on a peninsula and fortified it with massive stone walls, which even withstood heavy bombing during the Second World War. By 1575 the Order had built a new large hospital known as the Grand Hospital or Sacred Infirmary in order to continue with its primary mission of caring for the sick.

In 1798, the French under Napoleon took the island on 12 June, without resistance, when the Grand Master of the Order capitulated after deciding that the island could not be defended against the opposing French naval force. French rule lasted a little over 2 years, until they surrendered to the British Royal Navy, under Admiral Nelson's command, in September 1800.

Great Britain formally acquired possession of Malta in 1814. The island staunchly supported the UK through both World Wars.

The island was awarded the George Cross for its heroic resistance during the Second World War. An image of the cross is displayed on the flag.

Independence 21 September 1964 (from the UK)
National holidays Freedom Day, 31 March (1979); Sette Giugno, 7 June (1919); Feast of Our Lady of Victories, 8 September (1565); Independence Day, 21 September (1964); Republic Day, 13 December (1974).

Malta remained in the Commonwealth of Nations when it became independent from Great Britain in 1964. It is still a member.

A decade later Malta became a republic. Since about the mid-1980s, the island has become a freight trans-shipment point, financial center, and tourist destination.

Malta gained European Union membership in May 2004.

 

Entering Malta

Malta is a member of the Schengen Agreement.

There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented this treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union. This means that there may be spot customs checks but no immigration checks (traveling within Schengen but to/from a non-EU country) or you may have to clear immigration but not customs (traveling within the EU but to/from a non-Schengen country).

Please see the article Travel in the Schengen Zone for more information about how the scheme works and what entry requirements are.

 

Flights and transfers

Malta's own national carrier, Air Malta, has regular connections to many European, North African and Middle Eastern centers.

Ryanair flies from Liverpool JLA, Manchester, London Luton, Edinburgh, Eindhoven, Dublin, Dusseldorf Weeze, Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden, Madrid, Marseille, Turin, Trapani, Bristol, Pisa, Kaunas, Krakow, Stockholm (Skavsta), Malmö, Gothenburg, Seville, Valencia, Venice (Treviso), Milan (Bergamo), Wroclaw,Poznan, Girona, Athens, Birmingham, Bari and Billund (Denmark).

Easyjet flies from Liverpool JLA, Belfast, Newcastle, Rome, Milan Malpensa and London Gatwick. However several of these routes do not fly during late fall/winter.

Wizzair flies from Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest, Gdansk, Skopje, and Sofia

Jet2 flies from East Midlands, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Newcastle to Malta.

Thomas Cook flies from London Gatwick and Manchester.

Malta's International Airport is located between Luqa and Gudja.

Several public buses (€ 1.5) will take you from the airport. Note that the actual travel time is around an hour for Valetta (bus 71, 72, 73, and others), and maybe as much as two hours in bad traffic to St. Julian / Paceville (Bus X2) - Google-maps' claim of 17 minutes travel time in 2016 is erroneous. Slightly quicker Bus X1, which also continues to the ferry in Cirkewwa, also holds at Pembroke Park one km from Paceville.

Alternatively, there are very cheap private transfers available. Warning: Do not use the white airport taxis in front / nearby the terminal. They are very expensive compared to private transfers. Uber is not available in Malta.

24 hours a day, pre-paid ticketed TAXI can be purchased at fixed rates from a booth in the airport Welcomers Hall.

 

Reach by ferry

There are ferries to the Sicilian port of Pozzallo, Italy (90 minutes). At present, only Virtu Ferries make the crossing. There are no sailings on some days, so do check their website for the schedule. The ferries also take vehicles. However, discount airlines like Ryanair can be more convenient and the prices of their flights are often comparable or lower than those of the crossing by boat. In the high season, ferry ticket prices can skyrocket to above €100 per person, without a vehicle (summer 2015).

 

Getting around by bus

As it lacks a passenger rail network, Malta has an effective island-wide bus network. Weekly tickets are available and useful for getting around, with prices being low by EU standards. Malta Public Transport maintains an online Journey Planner which provides information and route maps. In most cases, buses will not run past 23:00.

Buses are generally regular between the main places of interest, but may not run precisely according to schedule. The island's main bus station is located outside of the city walls of Valletta and will provide links to all points on the island. Be aware that traffic can often get heavy during the day, causing delays.

Many of Malta's buses are equipped with digital plans and automated announcements signaling stops. In some circumstances, these may not be operating. Tickets can be bought on board from the driver.

Bus stops generally contain information on timetables and routes. It is necessary to wave or otherwise indicate for a bus to pull over at a bus stop if you wish to board, and the 'stop' button on board will indicate that you wish to depart.

Until 2011, Malta typically used many 1950s-era British buses, often with the driver's cab decorated, commonly with religious imagery. These have been replaced by a modern fleet.

As of July 2015, two-hour ticket costs €1.50 during winter, €2 during summer and €3 for night services from the driver. Prepay cards are available at bus terminals, post offices or online. Weekly tickets on Malta Island are priced at €21 for adults and €15 for children, or 12 single day journeys can be prepaid for €15.

People staying in Malta for longer periods may be better applying for a Tallinja card online before visiting Malta. This is a prepaid card similar to an Oyster or Octopus card but is tied to a single user (with photo ID) and caps your monthly bus fares (night buses excluded) at €26.

This is simply one of the ways to see everything that Malta has to offer. Seeing Malta from an open topper bus is a great way to appreciate this magnificent island. The open top bus tour of Malta starts from the Sliema Ferries and from Valletta. One can 'Hop on and Hop off' at his or her leisure at conveniently located stops along the route. In Malta, there are a number of hop-on-hop-off providers which offer a practical tour service linking all the most popular places of interest on the island and more. Each tour includes a multi-lingual commentary. A free harbor cruise is given with each ticket.

 

Getting around by bike

Renting a bike in Malta is not a very common and popular practice but it doesn't cost much and offers enough flexibility to explore. Bicycle rental shops are present all over the island but it is always better to book them from beforehand via their websites so as not to be disappointed.

Cycling is an original and fun way of discovering Malta and Gozo, known for their very small size. It is a good idea to cycle on the West of Malta, in the areas of Dingli Cliffs and Fomm ir-Rih as they are far from congested cities and offer a pleasant view.

It should be known however that most roads in Malta are dangerous for cyclists; most Maltese motorists are not friendly towards cyclists and there are no bicycle lanes. It is best to stick to country roads making sure to rent mountain bikes as country roads can get bumpy and uncomfortable for city bikes. In summer, do not go cycling 11:00-16:00 as the heat is unbearable.

 

Getting around by taxi

Malta's white taxis are the ones that can legally pick you up off the street. They have meters that are uniformly ignored, figure on €15 for short hops and not much more than €35 for a trip across the island. There are now Government approved fares for taxis from the airport ranging from €10-30.

For cheaper airport transfers and local taxis try using one of the local "Black cab" taxi firms such as Easy PrivateTaxi, Active Cabs Taxi by Sean Taxi Service, Peppin Transport (Cheaper Online Prices), Malta Airport Cabs [2] or Malta Taxi Online. Their rates are normally lower than white taxis but their services must be prebooked (at least fifteen minutes' notice). The approx. cost of a transfer from Malta Airport to Valletta is €15-18 for a sedan and €17-25 for a minibus.

If you would like a taxi tour, it is a good idea to book it in advance with an agreed price and arrange to be picked up from your hotel or apartment. The tours are best kept short, around 3 to 4 hours should do it. In a car, you will be able to cover Mdina, Rabat, Mosta, Valletta and the Blue Grotto. However, some people say that when visiting historical sights it is best to also hire a licensed tourist guide (who will wear their license while on tour) and accuse taxi drivers of often giving inaccurate information.

 

Getting around by foot

Valletta is relatively small and very safe for walking - as are both Mdina and Birgu, other old cities of Malta. A bus tour or car hire is more recommended for Gozo though. Trekking and Cycling are an excellent way to discover the beautiful scenery around the cliffs and Mediterranean beaches. The last options give you the opportunity to witness beautiful sunsets and breathtaking views.

 

Rent a car

Renting a car in Malta is a fine way to see the country since it's cheap and driving conditions have improved greatly in the last ten years. Having your own car allows you to make a lot more of your trip and discover the many hidden charms these small islands have to offer.

It is always best to pre-book your car rental online as this works out cheaper than booking when you arrive. Malta has very low rates for car rental -- pre-booked car rental for a week costs about as much as a taxi to and from the airport. Any driver and additional drivers must take with them their driving licenses in order to be covered for by the insurances provided by the local car rental supplier.

Popular leading car hire companies in Malta include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, and First Car Rental. These companies also offer car hire at Malta International airport.

There is GPS coverage of the island by popular brands, however, do check with your rental company as to whether they make this available to you or not. Popular opinion states that the GPS mapping of Malta isn't altogether that accurate, where certain routes planned on the GPS, will send you up one-way streets without warning, best to use common sense in conjunction with this technology. Also, the Maltese can be a very friendly bunch of people when giving directions are concerned. Unlike most of Europe, traffic in Malta drives on the left.

 

Languages spoken

The official languages are Maltese (a Semitic language closely related to Maghrebi Arabic) and English. Italian is widely understood and spoken, and many modern words in Maltese are borrowed from Italian. Some people have basic French, but few people can speak fluent French in Malta. By law, all official documents in Malta are in Maltese and English and many radio stations broadcast in both languages. 

The vast majority of Maltese citizens speak English fluently, although this less true among the older generation. The majority of people in Malta will, however, speak Maltese in the home and Maltese placenames may be difficult to pronounce. People are however very willing to help. Maltese people often speak with a slightly different intonation which may sound louder than usual to other English speakers. Churches often hold separate Maltese and English services, and information on times for each will be posted at the entrance. Multilingual electronic guides are available at a number of attractions.

 

What to see

The ancient capital of Mdina, also known as the Silent City, rests at a high point in the heart of the island. Surrounded by the scenic town of Rabat, this fortress is one of Malta's finest jewels, boasting architecture, history and a quality cup of coffee with a splendid view. Mdina gets very peaceful and romantic in the evenings when the day-trippers leave.

Valletta is similar in that it boasts a rich history, only being the modern capital, it is very much alive and much more modern, serving as both a shopping area during the day and offering an array of museums and cultural sites. Of particular note is St John's Co-Cathedral, built by one of the earlier Grandmasters of the Knights Hospitaller. It contains the various chapels of the Knights' langues, with Caravaggio paintings, tapestries and various relics of immense value to the Maltese heritage. The very floors of the Cathedral are the tombs of the most famous knights of the Order of St John, and a crypt, though off-limits to tourists, hosts the bodies of some of the most illustrious of Grandmasters, including the city's founder, Jean de Valette.

Must see attractions include the Unesco World Heritage sites such as the Hypogeum and the megalithic temples that can be admired on both Gozo and Malta and are the oldest in the world!

In Gozo, a rural atmosphere is predominant. Billy Connolly purchased a home in Gozo several years ago, owing to the island's quiet and relaxing nature. Visitors will be interested in taking a look at the impressive geographical feature of the Inland Sea, carved out by the Mediterranean. One is also obliged to visit the Citadel, Gozo's version of Mdina. Gozo is situated 5km north west of Malta and can be reached by a 25-minute crossing from Cirkewwa, the harbor of Malta.

For a look into more traditional Maltese life, the seldom seen south of Malta is a possible option for visitation. Townships like Ghaxaq often escape public notice, but some of the island's finest churches lie in the south. The many churches of Malta are testaments to the style and design of their times. Many towns in the north were stripped of their culture due to rapid urbanization, but this has been felt less in the south of Malta.

If you visit Malta in summer, be sure you visit one of the town/village feasts. Every town or village has at least one feast dedicated to a saint. The feast usually lasts for one week (in most cases from Monday to Sunday), with its peak being usually on Saturday. During this week, the village or town will be decorated with several ornaments and work of arts such as statues, lights, and paintings on tapestry. In most cases, the feast would also be furnished with fireworks, both air, and ground (which are quite spectacular and rather unique to Malta). Every feast has its own characteristics and rivalries between certain village feasts are quite well-known. Some of the most famous feasts are those of Our Lady of the Lily in Mqabba (third Sunday of June), Saint Philip in Zebbug (second Sunday of June), Mount Carmel in Zurrieq (Sunday before the last of July), Saint Mary of Imqabba, Qrendi (on the 15th of August), Saint Catherine in Zurrieq (first Sunday of September) and the Nativity of Our Lady in Mellieha and Naxxar (on the 8th of September). Organized tours to village feasts for tourists are available as well.

During the month of April, a fireworks contest occurs in the Valletta/Floriana area, where different fireworks factories compete with each other exhibiting their finest works both ground fireworks and air fireworks. It is spectacular and above all its free to attend to.

Quite a few wine festivals are organized during summer, two of which are organized in Valletta and one in Qormi. It is a great experience to taste several Maltese wines at very cheap prices. (In the Qormi festival (September) and Delicata wine festival (August), you buy a 12 euro cup, and you can drink as much as you like; in the Marsovine wine festival (July), you buy a cup and 14 tokens for €10). A beer festival (Jul-Aug) is also organized in Ta' Qali.

Finally, Malta's megalithic temples are the oldest free-standing structures on Earth, and one should not forget to take walks in the countryside. The most popular tourist destinations of Sliema and St. Julians probably have the least to offer as regards a taste of Malta, though they continue to be the most frequented. They are the most modern of locations, with most old buildings having been knocked down due to the monstrous construction industry fueling the economy. Malta's main nightlife area can be found here, especially in Paceville. 

Food

Many restaurants in tourist areas provide standard western food, particularly with British influences. Maltese cuisine is in many cases similar to Italian, and restaurants catering to this may be slightly more difficult to find. One of the island's specialties is the rabbit (fenek), and small savory pastries known as pastizzi are also ubiquitous.

Service in many Maltese restaurants is at a fairly leisurely pace, which may seem frustrating to some visitors. Try to use it as an opportunity to relax.

The Maltese celebratory meal is fenkata, a feast of rabbit, marinated overnight in wine and bay leaves. The first course is usually spaghetti in rabbit sauce, followed by the rabbit meat stewed or fried (with or without gravy). Look out for specialist fenkata restaurants, such as Ta L'Ingliz in Mgarr.

True Maltese food is quite humble in nature, and large fish and vegetable-based -- the kind of food that would have been available to a poor farmer, fisherman, or mason. Thus one would find staples like soppa ta' l-armla (widow's soup) which is basically a coarse mash of whatever vegetables are in season, cooked in a thick tomato stock. Then there's arjoli which is a julienne of vegetables, spiced up and oiled, and to which are added butter beans, a puree made from broad beans and herbs called bigilla, and whatever other delicacies are available, like Maltese sausage (a confection of spicy minced pork, coriander seeds, garlic, and parsley, wrapped in a hog casing) or ġbejniet (simple cheeselets made from goats' or sheep milk and rennet, served either fresh, dried or peppered).

Maltese sausage is incredibly versatile and delicious. It can be eaten raw (the pork is salted despite appearances), dried, or roasted. A good plan is to try it as part of a Maltese platter, increasingly available in tourist restaurants. Sun-dried tomatoes and bigilla with water biscuits are also excellent. Towards the end of summer, one can have one's fill of fried lampuki (dolphin fish) in tomato and caper sauce.

Another popular dish to try is ħobż biż-żejt, which is leavened Maltese bread, cut into thick chunks, or else baked unleavened ftira, and served drenched in olive oil. The bread is then spread with a thick layer of strong tomato paste, and topped (or filled) with olives, tuna, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and the optional arjoli (which in its simpler form is called ġardiniera).

A typical soft drink that originated in Malta is Kinnie, a non-alcoholic fizzy drink made from bitter oranges (called "Chinotto orange") and slightly reminiscent of Martini.

The local beer is called Cisk (pronounced "Chisk") and, for a premium lager (4.2% by volume), it is very reasonably priced by UK standards. It has a uniquely sweeter taste than most European lagers and is well worth trying. Other local beers, produced by the same company which brews Cisk, are Blue Label Ale, Hopleaf, 1565, Lacto ("milk stout"), and Shandy (a typical British mixture pre-mixture of equal measures of lager and 7-UP). Other beers have been produced in Malta in direct competition with Cisk such as '1565' brewed and bottled in the Lowenbrau brewery in Malta. Since late 2006 another beer produced by a different company was released in the market called "Caqnu". A lot of beers are also imported from other countries or brewed under licenses in Malta, such as Carlsberg, Lowenbrau, SKOL, Bavaria, Guinness, Murphy's stout and ale, Kilkenny, John Smith's, Budweiser, Becks, Heineken, Efes, and much more.

Malta has two indigenous grape varieties, Girgentina and Ġellewza, although most Maltese wine is made from various imported vines. Maltese wines directly derived from grapes are generally of a good quality, Marsovin and Delicata being prominent examples, and inexpensive, as little as 60-95ct per bottle. Both wineries have also premium wines which have won various international medals There are also many amateurs who make wine in their free time and sometimes this can be found in local shops and restaurants, especially in the Mgarr and Siġġiewi area. Premium wines such as Meridiana are an excellent example of the dedication that can be found with local vineyards.

The main Maltese night life district is Paceville (pronounced "pach-a-vil"), just north of St. Julian's. Young Maltese (as young as high school-age) come from all over the island to let their hair down, hence it gets very busy here, especially on weekends (also somewhat on Wednesdays, for midweek drinking sessions). Almost all the bars and clubs have free entry so you can wander from venue to venue until you find something that suits you. The bustling atmosphere, cheap drinks, and lack of cover charges make Paceville well worth a visit. The nightlife crowd becomes slightly older after about midnight when most of the youngsters catch buses back to their towns to meet curfew. Paceville is still going strong until the early hours of the morning, especially on the weekends.

Interestingly it does not rain much on Malta and almost all of the drinking water is obtained from the sea via large desalination plants on the west of the island or from the underground aquifer.

Sample the local delicacies - gbejna, pastizzi, bigilla, hobz biz-zejt, timpana, oven-baked rice and macaroni, snail, rabbit, gozitan ftira (pizza), maltese ricotta, maltese sausage, twistees etc.

Try the sweets - imqaret, helwa tat-Tork, prinjolata, figolli (frosted almond cake), qaq tal ghasel, kannoli, qubbajd etc.

Drink Kinnie, Cisk (local beer), local wines - marsovin, delicata, meridiana, Ta Mena.

 

Where to sleep

Malta as mainly a summer destination, it has numerous hotels almost for all appetites and wallets. Here we would like to provide you with some:

The Buġibba, Qawra and St. Paul’s Bay area is a good option for a regular holiday: You get  a good selection of hotels and other accommodation, a variety of restaurants and bars/pubs and a few places to swim (although mostly rocky). The area is well connected with several bus routes to the most popular places around. The downsides: Touristy and busy in summer, not practical if you’re renting a car (unless parking facilities are included with accommodation)

St. Julian’s and Paceville are good for dining and nightlife, with a decent choice of hotels although the only beach nearby (St. George’s Bay) isn’t the cleanest/nicest place to swim. Head over to nearby Sliema for swimming (rocky bathing areas and lidos with pools). The downside? Paceville is pretty noisy and busy (also thanks to a few big construction projects ongoing), particularly in summer and it’s not a great place to explore Malta from (or to stay at if you’re renting a car).

Sliema is a more modern place, with good hotels, dining options and bars/pubs around. Rocky beaches and lidos with pools are good for swimming and there are easy ways to get to Valletta and Comino/Gozo oversea. The downsides: Sliema is one of the busiest places in Malta with heavy traffic congestion and notoriously difficult to find a parking spot in. It’s not easy to reach the best sandy beaches from either.

If you’re looking to explore Malta and swimming/beaches are less important, consider staying at Malta’s capital city, Valletta. Drenched in culture and history, great restaurants and wine bars, good quality accommodation and well connected with other parts of Malta through public transport.

Another good option for exploring the country is Mellieħa, where you’re far closer to the best sandy beaches, you’ll be staying in a genuine Maltese village, it’s easy to reach other parts of the island and it’s pretty peaceful there. The downside? For some might be too quiet. There are great restaurants around, as well as a few bars, but there isn’t much to do in terms of nightlife.

In case you are looking for something more low-budget, you may try Couchsurfing on couchsurfing.com or Airbnb in order to sleep at local houses. A great community exists in Malta that is able to host you. 

 

Safety

The crime rate in Malta is generally considered to be low. Tourists should, however, take normal precautions, guarding against pickpocketing in busy areas and some overcharging scams.

The main health risk in Malta is the fierce sun in the summer, which can scorch unsuspecting tourists. Apply sunblock liberally.

For ambulance, fire or police dial 112. The main hospitals are Mater Dei +356 2545 0000 and Gozo General Hospital in Gozo, +356 2156 1600. For a complete list of government hospital services visit

In case you read this article and you found it fascinating, you may proceed and have a small break during December.

Malta winter wellness break

Last but not least, every good trip starts with the nice mood and of course the right preparation. Make sure that you have managed to get all your documents if you come to Malta from outside the European Union, and also get the best accessories and gadgets, in order to make your trip a smart, comfortable but mostly a safe experience!

Visit tripatricks.com for more gadgets and accessories, and participate in the big Sale 20% off in all electronic and pet travel products (in case that you are traveling with your buddy).

Now that you know it all, go and get it! 

tripatricks.com

 

(Source: wikitravel)

 

Travel – Page 21 – tripatricks