Mexico is a vast country covering over 770,000 square miles, almost 2 million square kilometres. To the north it shares a 3336 km / 2066 mile long border with the USA. More than half of this border is demarked by the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo del Norte). In the south the country extends beyond the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to include the Yucatan Peninsula to the northeast. Its southeastern borders are with Guatemala and Belize. To the west and south lies the Pacific Ocean. The Mar de Cortes, or Gulf of California, separates mainland Mexico from Baja California - the world’s longest peninsula; barely 200km/125 miles at its widest point and stretching for an incredible 1300km/800 miles. Mexico’s eastern coast is the southern curve of the Gulf of Mexico. Two long mountain ranges, the Sierra Madre Occidental and Sierra Madre Oriental stretch from the northern border to Mexico City. Either side of these ranges are coastal plains and between them is a highland area known as the Altiplano central. At the northern end of the rugged Sierra Madre Occidental is an area of canyonland and spectacular mountain scenery known as Barranca del Cobra (Copper Canyon). South of these ranges the Cordillera Neovolcanica runs east to west and contains many active volcanoes including Popocatepetl 5452m/17887ft. Mexico City is situated in the heart of this volcanic country at an altitude of 2300m/7545ft. Running along the southern Pacific coastline are two further mountain ranges, the Sierra Madre del Sur to the west of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and the Sierra Madre de Chiapas to the east. Beyond the Chiapas ranges, a vast area of rainforest stretches east into the Peten of Guatemala and northwards to gradually merge into the flat savannah of the Yucatan Peninsula.
The time in Mexico is GMT -6 hours
The national language of Mexico is Spanish and in the rural areas that we visit many people will not speak English. Since few tourists make the effort to learn Spanish, it will impress the local people if you can utter a few Spanish phrases. This is a great way of enhancing your cultural experiences and you should not be discouraged if your vocabulary provokes laughter, as this is genuinely a sign of appreciation. We recommend you take a pocket phrase book such as the Lonely Planet or Berlitz and learn some basics.
The southern half of Mexico is below the Tropic of Cancer but in the highland areas of Cordillera Neovolcaica and in the Sierra Madres the climate is temperate. The wettest and hottest season is from June to September with the low lying coastal areas receiving the majority of the precipitation. In Mexico City (2300m/7545ft) the average daytime temperature from October to May is 24ºC/75ºF dropping to 8ºC /46ºF at night, in Orizaba (1219m/4000ft) 30ºC/86ºF dropping to 14ºC / 57ºF and in Creel (2338m/7670ft) 20ºC / 68ºF dropping to 5ºC / 41ºF at night.
The unit of currency in Mexico is the Peso. For up to date exchange rates visit: www.xe.com It is not necessary to purchase Pesos outside the country. Your travel money should be carried in the form of cash or travellers cheques in US dollars. US Dollars are widely accepted in Mexico. One of the easiest and fastest ways to access your money is with a credit or debit card using ATMs. All major credit cards and cirrus and plus debit cards can be used to draw cash pesos. Credit cards can be used to purchase goods and services in most Mexican towns and are particularly useful for more expensive souvenirs.
A passport valid for six months after your return date is required for most nationalities. Visas are not required by UK and US citizens. A tourist card will be issued on entry into Mexico. These are currently valid for 3 months for single entry and are free of charge. Nationals of other countries should contact the embassy or consulate of Mexico in their own countries for information on how to obtain their visa. Please note that if you intend to travel to Mexico via the USA you must have a machine readable passport. Even if you are merely in transit through a US airport you will not be allowed to travel if you do not have a machine readable passport. Also note that if you have any convictions (including driving convictions) you cannot enter or transit through the USA without a pre-arranged visa.
You should attend your own doctor and dentist for a check-up. Your doctor will have access to the most up to date information on the required vaccinations for the country you are visiting. In general we recommend vaccinations against the following: Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid, & Hepatitis ‘A’. A very good online resource is the NHS travel website at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk
Additional Sources of Information
Mexico - Lonely Planet Travel Survival Kit.
The Rough Guide to Mexico
The Best of Mexico’s Copper Canyon, “where history meets the future” - Richard D. Fisher. Sunracer Publication.
Mexico: GeoCenter Publishing. 1:2,500,000
Lonely Planet - www.lonelyplanet.com
Rough Guides - www.roughguides.com