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Mexico City Travel Information

The Basics

Time

GMT -6 (GMT -5, Apr - Oct)

Electricity

130 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin flat blade attachment plugs are standard.

Language

Spanish is the official language in Mexico. Some English is spoken in tourist regions.

Travel Health

Those entering Mexico from an infected area require a yellow fever certificate. There are no vaccination requirements for visitors to Mexico, however visitors should take medical advice if travelling outside the major tourist areas. A malaria risk exists in some rural areas, but not on the Pacific and Gulf coasts, and dengue fever is on the increase. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A and typhoid. Travellers who may come into close contact with animals and may be at risk of bites should consider a rabies vaccination.

Sensible precautions regarding food and water should be followed and visitors are advised to be cautious of street food and stick to bottled water. Medical facilities are basic, so comprehensive medical insurance is recommended. As medicines may be in short supply in certain areas travellers should consider taking along prescription medications, in their original packaging, and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what it is and why it is needed.

Tipping

Tipping is customary in Mexico for almost all services as employees are not paid sufficient hourly wages and often rely on tips. Waiters and bar staff should be tipped 10 to 15 percent if a service charge hasn't already been added to the bill. The American custom of tipping 15 to 20 percent is practiced at international resorts, including those in Los Cabos.

Safety Information

There is a risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks in public places. Crime is high in Mexico, especially in Mexico City, where robberies and muggings are prevalent. Travellers should avoid displays of wealth and be particularly vigilant on public transport, at stations and tourist sites. Only use authorised taxi services, from the taxi rank. All bus travel should be in daylight hours and if possible it is advisable to travel first class. Women travelling on their own should be alert, especially in tourist areas, as a number of serious sexual assaults have occurred in Cancun recently. Visitors drawing money from cash machines or exchanging money at bureaux de change should do so in daylight hours and be especially vigilant on leaving.

There have been reports of tourists being approached by 'questionnaire agents', who use visitors' personal details to mislead relatives about their well-being, so be cautious. Visitors are advised to be wary of people presenting themselves as police officers attempting to fine or arrest them for no apparent reason, leading to theft or assault; if in doubt ask for identification, and, if possible make a note of the officer's name, badge number and patrol number. The practice is most common in Cancun where increasing numbers of motorists in rental cars have been stopped and threatened with imprisonment if an immediate fine is not paid.

Recent reports of the drug cartel wars in Mexico may seem alarming to tourists travelling to Mexico, however most of this violence is concentrated along the border between Mexico and the United States. The violence is generally between drug cartels and law enforcement agents and tourists are generally unaffected provided they keep to tourist zones and do not travel to the affected areas. Having said that, travellers should research possible dangers before setting off.

Hurricanes may affect the coastal areas between June and November.

Local Customs

Mexicans are not impatient and do not appreciate this emotion in others, so travellers should behave accordingly and expect opening hours and public transport times to be flexible and laid back. Mexicans are friendly and hospitable people and courteous behaviour and polite speech in return, is greatly appreciated. Travellers should also note that it is common for Mexicans to communicate closer than one arm's length from each other and that it is not an attempt to be forward.

Business

Professionals looking to do business in Mexico will find that the North American country is a friendly, hospital place in which to further their careers. The defining characteristic of business culture in Mexico is that successful, productive business relationships are invariably built on personal trust and familiarity between individuals. In Mexico, business is always ideally conducted face-to-face, and among people who know and trust each other. Although many Mexican businessmen speak perfect English, Spanish is the official language of business in Mexico - and learning a few choice words and phrases will go a long way toward ingratiating yourself with your new associates.

Although management structures in Mexico remain hierarchical (and at worst, they can even be a little paternalistic), business etiquette in Mexico is marked by a combination of formality and real warmth, friendliness, and openness between individuals. Use titles ('Señhor' and 'Señhora') until strictly instructed not to do so, but do not shrink away from engaging in personal discussions with your colleagues. Remember, in Mexico, your qualifications, expertise and work experience - as important as they are - will not serve you as well as your ability to develop personal relationships with your associates. Business meetings must be scheduled in advance, and then confirmed a few days before they are due to take place. Meetings often begin with some small talk to encourage people to get to know each other - and will proceed at the pace determined by the important role-players present. Even though executive company decisions are always made by the person in the highest authority, junior employees are encouraged to share their opinions during meetings, and to engage in debate.

Bear in mind that, in Mexico, it is very rare to hear the word 'No' being used in a direct or confrontational way - bald refusals are seen as rude. The dress code for the Mexican business world is smart and formal, with an emphasis on style. Men wear ties and dark colours, and accessories, and the basic assumption is you'll endeavour to look as good as you possibly can! Women also dress smartly and stylishly (business suits are widely worn) - and will often go to work in high heels and make-up. Business hours in Mexico are generally from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (with a 2 or 3 hour siesta in the early afternoon).

Communications

The international access code for Mexico is +52. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001 for North America). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)55 for Mexico City, (0)744 for Acapulco and (0)998 for Cancun. Some US long-distance phone companies have access numbers which can be dialled in order to use your phone card - calls are usually cheaper than direct-dialled calls from a hotel room. If calling internationally from a phone booth only use the official TelMex phone booths, as all others charge very high fees. GSM mobile networks cover most of the country, but international roaming costs can be exorbitantly high. Internet cafes are widely available, especially in tourist-orientated areas.

Duty Free

Travellers to Mexico over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g pipe tobacco; 3 litres wine or other alcoholic beverages; perfume, eau-de-cologne or lotions for personal use; a video camera and two standard cameras. Non-residents are allowed to bring in 12 rolls of film or video cassettes, and goods to the value of US$300 without incurring duty fees. Prohibited goods include fresh food products and the import of canned food. The export of archaeological artefacts is strictly forbidden.

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