There is something about the Spanish culture that I absolutely adored when I was in Europe. A combination of the weather, the language, the food, people and music; a sense of happiness encompassed me in Spain, and I was hoping for the same in Mexico. I hadn’t been to Mexico since a childhood visit to Tijuana, so I was definitely excited to explore the unknown. I had been learning Spanish for the few months leading up to this trip, and I was enthused by the prospect of practicing these skills. It was also a cheap, chilled way to end my trip; a cheeky stop through the Riviera Maya, who wouldn’t say no to a swim in the Caribbean?!
Here’s where I visited: (click on each title to read more)
10 useful tips to know before you travel to Mexico:
- The water is mostly undrinkable. Ask at your accommodation though, because sometimes they will have a filter.
- US dollars are a second unofficial currency. Most places will accept US dollars or pesos, and frequently both prices will be advertised. It pays to always carry some cash, as most places won’t accept cards.
- Mexico’s own aperitif – corn chips with various sauces. Whenever you go out for a meal, complimentary chips are brought out to start you off; I had to develop some serious self-control, and quickly – otherwise I never actually wanted to eat my dinner.
- Haggling is a thing. In department stores, grocery stores, pharmacies and the like, prices will be as advertised. However, if it is a flea-market type shop, then feel free to negotiate towards what you believe is a fair price.
- Getting around – welcome to the collectivo. Looks like a shuttle, effectively a group taxi; you wave them down and should pay about 25 pesos regardless of where you are going. We got ripped off a few times, but didn’t waste our time arguing over a few dollars.
- Obviously the places I visited were more touristy than a lot of other places in Mexico, but I was astonished at how well everyone spoke English and how willing everyone is to help.
- Mexican toilets and loo paper don’t mix well. Don’t risk it, save yourself a potentially awkward situation and when instructed, just put your loo paper in the rubbish bin provided.
- Being young, female and blonde meant I attracted a lot of unwanted attention. I soon learnt that the Mexicans thrive off banter, and if you are willing to move past their nonsensical chat, they are indeed great sources of local information, and unlike other countries, are absolutely stoked to have you practice your amateur Spanish-speaking skills on them.
- Mexico’s version of the Seven Eleven, OXXO stores are virtually everywhere, and sell virtually everything.
- Museums are often closed on Mondays, so check that first.
A beginners guide to Mexican food
- Everything incorporates tortillas one way or another. Whether it be fresh in a taco, toasted in a tostada, or grilled into a quesadilla, I suddenly found myself eating them on a regular basis.
- Margarita. Tequila + triple sec + lime juice, served on the rocks. Nowadays, they are served in many different ways – flavoured, iced and all very delicious.
- Paloma. Tequila mixed with sparkling lemon, what Mexican’s tend to think of when they picture drinks involving tequila.
- Horchata. A traditional drink made with rice, almonds, cinnamon and sugar. To me it tasted like a chilled chai latte.
- Tropical fruit. Usually in abundance in any tropical country, we saw mango, banana, coconut, pineapple, papaya… convenient, delicious, healthy snacks!
- Tacos al pastor. One of the most famous dishes, ‘al pastor’ translates to ‘in the style of the shepherd’. To serve, think strips of meat are sliced off a spit, placed on a tortilla and topped with onion, coriander and fresh pineapple. My mouth is watering at the memory.
- Tostadas. Simple yet delicious, basically they are baked/fried tortillas, served either plain or topped with cheese, meet, beans and anything else that tickles your fancy. Kind of like a pizza base, it is a great way to utilise slightly stale tortillas!
- Chicharron. Unlike in New Zealand, where you only see pork crackling if someone successfully makes it when they cook a roast, you can find bags of crackling here, in amongst where you buy the potato chips. It is frequently found as a topping on salads, tacos, and of course, tostadas.
- Enchiladas. An ancient dish evolved from when the Mayans used to wrap corn tortillas around small fish. Nowadays are enchiladas are filled with anything from meat to seafood, beans and vegetables, layered with cheese and chilli and baked until cooked through.
- Quasedillas. Pronounced ‘kasss – aaaa- deeee- yaaah’.
- Guacamole. Something I cannot get enough of, especially when tacos are in abundance. Combine avocado, onion, tomato, lemon juice, chilli, garlic and if you are feeling adventurous, a dash of tequila and devour with tortilla chips – one of my favourite foods in the world.
- Frijoles. Translates to beans, I saw how popular these are with the Mexican people when I lived with Hector. They are usually cooked with water and onion very slowly, until they are soft. Sometimes they are mashed and recooked (ie. Re-fried beans).
- Empanada. South America’s answer to the meat pie, it is a meat filled pastry.