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Quick Facts
CapitalMexico City (Distrito Federal)
Governmentfederal republic
CurrencyMexican peso (MXN)
Areatotal: 1,972,550 sq km
land: 1,923,040 sq km
water: 49,510 sq km
Population103,400,165 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageSpanish, various Mayan, Nahuatl, and other regional indigenous languages
Religionnominally Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant 6%, other 5%
For the Mexican State of Mexico, see Mexico (state).

Mexico is a country in North America, lying between the United States of America to the north, Belize to the southeast and Guatemala to the southwest, it has both a Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico coast to the east and a North Pacific Ocean coast to the west.


  • Baja California -- The western peninsula
  • Bajio -- historic states in traditional silver-mining region
  • Mexico City -- The nation's capital and one of the world's most populous cities
  • Yucatan Peninsula -- Jungle and Mayan ruins

See also: List of Mexican states


Mexico has many cities; these are some of the most travelled.

  • Acapulco
  • Cancun
  • Cabo San Lucas
  • Guadalajara
  • Guanajuato
  • Ixtapa
  • Manzanillo
  • Mazatlan
  • Mexico City
  • Monterrey
  • Morelia
  • Puerto Vallarta
  • Queretaro
  • San Miguel de Allende
  • Tijuana
  • Veracruz
  • Zihuatanejo


Some information in this section has been adapted from a CIA World Factbook 2002 import.

Country name 
conventional long form: United Mexican States
conventional short form: Mexico
local short form: M�xico
local long form: Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Government type 
federal republic
Current president 
Vicente Fox (from the political party PAN)
M�xico (Distrito Federal)
Administrative divisions 
31 states (estados, singular - estado) and 1 federal district* (distrito federal); Aguascalientes, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Distrito Federal*, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacan, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Yucatan, Zacatecas


The site of advanced Amerindian civilizations, Mexico came under Spanish rule for three centuries before achieving independence early in the 19th century. A devaluation of the peso in late 1994 threw Mexico into economic turmoil, triggering the worst recession in over half a century. The nation continues to make an impressive recovery. Ongoing economic and social concerns include low real wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, inequitable income distribution, and few advancement opportunities for the largely Amerindian population in the impoverished southern states. Elections held in July 2000 marked the first in its history that the opposition defeated the party in government through elections, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN) was sworn in on 1 December 2000 as the first chief executive elected in free and fair elections.


103,400,165 (July 2002 est.)
noun: Mexican(s)
adjective: Mexican
Ethnic groups 
mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) 60%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 30%, white 9%, other 1%
nominally Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant 6%, other 5%


Area - comparative 
slightly less than three times the size of Texas
varies from tropical to desert
high, rugged mountains; low coastal plains; high plateaus; desert
Elevation extremes 
lowest point: Laguna Salada -10 m
highest point: Volcan Pico de Orizaba (Citlatepetl) 5,700 m


Get in

From the United States

Keep your visa documents when leaving the United States of America

  • If you are not a US citizen holding a visa for the US (including the green "waiver" visas people from Western countries get at US borders), you will have both a visa stamp in your passport and a loose immigration document (often a green card) that the US customs officer puts in your passport. When entering Mexico from the US (either by land or by plane): if you intend to come back to the US after your stay, do not try to hand the green immigration document back to US customs (they normally don't ask for it). You can enter the US multiple times during the time allocated to your visa (for Western tourists, normally 90 days), but you need to have the immigration document as well to validate the visa. If you come back from the US without that document, you will not only have to apply again for a new visa (which is on land borders as in Tijuana costly (6-20 $) and may take a whole afternoon if you happen to be in a queue with hundreds of Mexican applicants), but you will also be asked severe questions by US immigration. So keep the immigration document with you until you leave North America for good.

By train

By car

By bus

By boat

Get around

Travelling in Mexico is most practical by bus, car, or air. Passenger transport by train is almost nonexistent.

Due to a government scheme in the early 90's to create infrastructure, the best roads are toll roads. Toll roads can be relatively costly, 400-800 pesos is not uncommon on longer trips, but are much faster and better maintained. Buses generally travel by toll roads (and the toll is obviously included in the ticket price).

By bus

If travelling 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. Book direct travel within Mexico on ejecutivo buses departing in the evening. You'll be able to sleep on luxury buses with as few as 18 seats. Some even have complimentary beer. With the advent of NAFTA, some bus companies are now offering service from US cities.

For a useful website for first class schedules and prices largely in southern Mexico, see Hitchhiking possibilities vary according to 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. Hitchhiking is considered fairly safe and easy in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Get out

Over Tenosique, La Palma, by boat on the river Rio San Pedro to Naranja (Guatemala). This route is not used by many and still has a touch of adventure. Stay firm when negotiating over the price. Absolutely important! Make sure you get your passport stamped before you leave Naranja or you might catch one of the rare buses back and take a walk through the jungle as the emigrations office is part up the river between the Mexican border and the village.


Spanish is the main language. You can get by with English in most major cities or tourist destinations, but much of the country is monolingual.

Mexican Spanish is slightly different from both the Castilian Spanish spoken in most of Spain and the Spanish spoken in South American countries. All three are mutually intelligible -- it's about the same as the differences in English spoken in various countries -- but you can expect some funny looks if you speak only Castilian. Mexican Spanish is the variant most often taught in the United States of America, so if you learned Spanish there, you should be OK.

In some regions, the native language like Mayan or Nahuatl is still widely spoken.

See also: Spanish phrasebook



Economy - overview 
Mexico has a free market economy with a mixture of modern and outmoded industry and agriculture, increasingly dominated by the private sector. Recent administrations have expanded competition in seaports, railroads, telecommunications, electricity, natural gas distribution, and airports. Income distribution remains highly unequal. Trade with the US and Canada has tripled since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994. Following 6.9% growth in 2000, real GDP fell 0.3% in 2001, with the US slowdown the principal cause. Positive developments in 2001 included a drop in inflation to 6.5%, a sharp fall in interest rates, and a strong peso that appreciated 5% against the dollar. Mexico City implemented free trade agreements with Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and the European Free Trade Area in 2001, putting more than 90% of trade under free trade agreements. Foreign direct investment reached $25 billion in 2001, of which $12.5 billion came from the purchase of Mexico's second largest bank, Banamex, by Citigroup.
Population below poverty line 
40% (2001 est.)
Unemployment rate 
urban - 3% plus considerable underemployment (2001)
Mexican peso (MXN)

Beware that the symbol used for pesos is the same as for US dollars. That is, if you see a sign reading $20, it means 20 pesos (about 2 dollars). Prices in dollars (in tourist areas) are labelled US$2.

Exchange rates 
Mexican pesos per US dollar - 10.6175 (July 2005)


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?).

  • Tacos
  • Tamales
  • Tortas
  • Quesadillas
  • Mole
  • Pozole
  • Gorditas
  • Guacamole
  • Tostadas


  • Tequila
  • Pulque
  • Mezcal

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

  • Corona
  • Dos Equis (XX), dark or lager.
  • Modelo Especial
  • Negra Modelo
  • Pacifico
  • Tecate
  • Indio
  • Bohemia
  • Carta Blanca
  • Sol
  • Superior
  • Victoria
  • Montejo

In some places you will find beer served as a prepared drink called michelada. The formula varies depending on the place, but it's usually beer mixed with lemon juice, Clamato cocktail, soybean sauce, salt and a little bit of hot sauce.




Native English speakers can pick up work, as always, as English teachers. This may require a work visa, which is difficult to get if you just want to freelance for a short time, so you might have to work illegally. The upside is that English speakers with no knowledge of Spanish are sought after, because they will force their students to practice English.

Stay safe

When in major cities - especially Mexico City, play it safe with taxis. Never pick up a cab in the street unless the locals have told you otherwise...always request that your hotel or restaurant call a taxi for you.

Carry money in multiple locations, especially when driving a car. As in any city, do not wave cash or credit cards around - use them discretely & replace as quickly as possible.

Stay healthy

Drinking the water out of the tap is generally a bad idea, but some areas are okay. Check with locals.


  • The overwhelming majority of the populaiton is Roman Catholic, and many Mexicans are deeply religious and conservative in character. Be careful when you bring up issues such as homosexuality -- many, especially those outside of Mexico City, are not very tolerant about it. If you're a female traveler, be mindful that the country still experiences a high rate of machismo. In particular, wearing shorts is a bad idea and may lead to uncomfortable attention.


Internet country code 

Phone country code : 52

You can call from public phones using prepaid tel. cards tarjetas ladatel, bought at magazine stalls. Beware these are different than tarjetas amigo, viva, or unefon: they are for cellphones.

Some areas have only a few internet cafes; in others, they are plentiful. Common fees vary from 8 pesos/hour to 15 pesos/hour.

External links