Mexico is a fascinating country with a rich culture and stunning landscapes. However, like any other destination, there are always things that you need to watch out for when traveling there. I have taken several trips to Mexico and learned a lot of lessons—some the hard way, which involved wasting a lot of time and money. The upside is that I can help others learn from my mistakes. If you’re traveling to Mexico anytime soon, try to avoid these common blunders, and have a great trip!
If you’re planning on renting a Car in Mexico, make sure to include Mexican rental insurance. I made the mistake of not doing this because I thought the Collision Damage Waiver coverage from my U.S credit card company would be sufficient—but the car rental company rejected it.
When I came to pick up my car rental in Cancun, I gave the staff my credit card policy about auto rental insurance benefits and wasted two hours trying to convince them that I didn’t need extra insurance. They just wouldn’t budge and required me to buy their insurance for an extra $150/day in order to pick up the car.
What to do: When you make the reservation online, be sure to include Mexican car rental full coverage insurance, which should only cost $7-$15/day. Don’t let car rental companies in Mexico overcharge you for insurance at pick-up!
When you make an exit at the airport or wander around tourist attractions in Mexico, you may be approached by a group of nicely dressed people who speak excellent English and offer you a free hotel transfer or a free tour in exchange for “90 minutes of your time.”
For the free perks, you will be required to attend a timeshare presentation, which is a very high-pressure sales pitch for a vacation club membership. The membership tends to cost ten to thirty thousand dollars upfront, with an annual fee of a few hundreds dollars, in exchange for some discounts, points, and VIP treatment at a designated hotel over a fixed period of time.
These timeshare presentations will last much longer than 90 minutes! If you’re good at saying no, you may be able to get out within 3 to 5 hours. If not, you could be stuck there (like me) for 7 to 8 hours.
What to do: Politely shake your head and say no when offered a timeshare presentation unless you are really interested in buying one.
At a gas station on my way to the airport, I gave the attendant a bill of 200 pesos and was ready to get on my way. He took the bill but was still stopping my car, saying that I only gave him 20 pesos. I knew for sure it was 200 pesos because it was the last big bill in my wallet, but I was in a hurry to catch my flight, so I just gave in and let him make an additional charge with my credit card.
I then learned that it is a very common scam at gas stations in Mexico where the staff swap your bills when you don’t pay attention and pocket the extra money.
What to do: Instead of giving all the bills at once to the attendants, be sure to count your bills out loud one by one in front of them.
I travel pretty light—usually with just a carry-on bag. I thought I could easily pick up what I needed for a cheaper price in Mexico, but the prices weren’t what I expected. If you think you’re going to need something during your trap, it’s smart to bring it with you.
What to do: These are some items that I recommend packing for your trip to Mexico:
Sunscreen: a bottle that costs $7 in the US would cost $20 in Mexico’s beach towns.
Water shoes: for the same price, the quality of water shoes in Mexico isn’t comparable to what you’ll find in the US.
Warm clothing: pack a cardigan or something warm even if your destination is supposed to be hot—it may get chilly at night, especially near the beach or the mountain
Formal clothing: some of the best Mexican restaurants require a formal dress code, such as collared shirts and closed-toe shoes.
Did you know that sometimes paying more is actually less? The extra perks that come with a slightly higher price tag may offset the extra cost and give you a better deal.
For example, when I did resort hopping at all-inclusive resorts in Cancun on my second trip, I actually saved more money in total than my first trip staying at a regular hotel. Because the all-inclusive hotel nightly rate already includes unlimited food, drinks, and entertainment, I didn’t have to worry about any extra costs.
What to do: Don’t make the mistake of booking accommodations solely based on price. It is important to compare the amenities and perks that are included with different price tags to determine if it’s worth it!
Have a safe and wonderful time in Mexico!
Hoang Anh Le is a world traveler, writer, and owner of Luxury under Budget travel blog—featuring travel deals, promo codes, and tips on how to achieve affordable luxury by maximizing the value of time and money.