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Traveling to Mexico in 2021
So far Mexico has been one of the few countries that welcome visitors without restrictions. It was one of the world’s top destinations in 2020. In fact, Mexico has allowed freedom movement for tourists from the USA, Canada, South America, and even Europe.
Due to this strategy, Mexico is experiencing a tourist boom. There are thousands of flights from the world to Mexico, especially to Cancun which is being crowned as the new tourist capital of the world. New direct flights to Cancun are being added every day, even from far places such as Lima and Instabul.
Why travel to Mexico during the pandemic
Why should tourists and digital nomads plan on traveling to Mexico? We’re trying to list the most important points below. What is most important, arguably, is the freedom of movement.
There are no virus tests required and there is no quarantine imposed on those arriving in the country.
But of course, there are other appeals to bring travelers to this amazing land. Among others, we can mention some of those appeals such as the low cost of living, the relatively nice weather, the beautiful nature, amazing food, and the good air connectivity.
Freedom of movement
One can freely travel around Mexico from one state to another, either by air or ground transportation.
One of the few exception is Mexico City where some parks, museums, cinemas, and other public places are closed until January 10, 2020. Also, most restaurants, cafes, and bars are open only for take-away. Though some small local restaurants will be open as the government is not actually enforcing the law where people need to survive. This what we’ve noticed in Mexico City - only large restaurants operate on a delivery and takeaway policy. The public transportation in Mexico City is also operating as usual.
Masks are recommended but not required outdoors in public places. They are however mandated in the airports and other public closed places.
Are you trying to escape the winter in the northern hemisphere? Mexico is definitely a warmer place. It can still be cold at night if you live in Mexico City or other cities in the North. The temperatures there plunge to a few positive degrees at night then going up to 20s during the day. However, the weather in Yucatan Peninsula is warmer keeping the thermometer in the 20s day and night.
Mexico City temperature in January
Daytime - Lows 16 degrees. Highs 26 degrees
Nighttime - Lows 3 degrees. Highs 10 degrees
Cancun temperature in January
Daytime - Lows 24 degrees. Highs 28 degrees
Nightime - Lows 17 degrees. Highs 24 degrees
In short, Mexico’s political situation seems to not influence tourism in a negative way. Tourism is in fact thriving due to this “pandemic” situation and the Mexican Government keeping the borders open.
Turkey was the other country where travelers and expatriates found refuge during the summer of 2020. But Turkey has let us down. Starting in December 2020, Turkey started to impose nonsense restrictions that affect not only the natives but also foreigners traveling inside the country. In fact, Turkey is way more politicized at this point, while Mexico allows visitors to travel freely from state to state. Yes, there are some light restrictions in place in Mexico State and the capital CDMX. But most visitors don’t spend much time there anyway.
Crime and Safety in Mexico
Safety is always a hot topic and nobody denies that the current situation is far from ideal. Potentially, with more people losing their jobs due to the “Stay at Home” policy, things could get worse. As a tourist or expatriate, you need to plan in advance and know which places and situations to avoid. Yes, there is crime of opportunity, but generally, most criminal activities in Mexico are directly related to drug cartels and other gangs. Staying out of those circles will be enough to cut most chances of getting robbed or worse.
Do your research before traveling and get good intel on what areas are safer. The touristic areas are usually a safe bet, though you always need to be aware of your surroundings. Read forum posts and find out which areas the ex-pats prefer to live and shop. Avoid traveling to unsafe areas such as slums or markets outside the town center. They do have less police coverage.
Use ground public transportation only as a last resort or if you’re already familiar with a certain area. When first arriving to a new city, do use Uber or Cabify and avoid taxis. Some taxis may not be registered with the local authorities. There were incidents where the taxi drivers were operating as part of a gang. Soft kidnapping is not something unheard of - holding you hostage to withdraw cash from the ATM.
Do not carry large amounts of cash on you. You can withdraw Mexican Pesos from most ATMs which are present in most places. The fees are usually a little more than 1 USD per transaction. Reportedly, the Mexican HSBC bank does not charge any fees on cash withdrawals, but we haven’t been able to confirm that.
Mexico is very well connected with flights from all over the world. Most flights however will have have a stopover in a large US city so prepare ahead. Below we are listing direct flights from European and South American cities.
Flights from the USA and Canada
As there are numerous direct flights from the USA and Canada we won’t be listing any sample. But it’s worth mentioning that the rates start at around $40.00 from the US and $120 from Canada, depending on the airline. Cheapest seems to be VIVA Aerobus from the US and either Aeromexico or Westjet from Canada.
Flights from Central America and South America
Due to Mexico’s location and cultural background, it receives lots of visitors from Latin America. Just about 3 hours away from Costa Rica and 4 hours from Ecuador, Mexico is an awesome fun destination for all travelers from the Americas.
Direct flights from Central America and South America
There are direct flights to Mexico City from following Central America, South America, and Caribbean cities. The rates are in Euros and show the starting price. The sample shows flights during the month of January 2020. There are new direct flights from Lima to Mexico City.
Flights from Central America and South America to Mexico City
Guatemala City (starting at €70.00)
San Jose (starting at €90.00)
San Salvador (starting at €110.00)
Lima (starting at €150.00)
Havana (starting at €175.00)
Panama City (starting at €190.00)
Santo Domingo (starting at €220.00)
Quito (starting at €245.00)
Sao Paulo (starting at €445.00)
Buenos Aires (starting at €480.00)
Santiago de Chile (starting at €480.00)
Flights from Europe
It is very easy to fly to Mexico from Europe, even if needed to bypass the USA or Canada.
Direct flights from Europe to Mexico
As you may have heard there is a new “virus strain” in the UK. Hence many countries, including the US and most states in the EU, are blocking flights from the UK. However, Mexico does not block any flights from the UK, or anywhere else for that matter.
Flights to Cancun from Europe
There are direct flights to Cancun from the following European cities. The rates are in Euros and show the starting price. The sample shows flights during the month of January 2020. However, these rates fluctuate and you may be able to find better deals. Usually, the best rates can be found about 4 to 5 weeks ahead.
London (starting at €423.00)
Manchester (starting at €720.00)
Birmingham (starting at €720.00)
Paris (starting at €481.00)
Frankfurt (starting at €478.00)
If you’re adventurous and feel like traveling with a stopover then there are more options. However, keep in mind that most flights to Mexico have a layover in the USA. For most Europeans that is not an issue but for other nationalities that may present a hurdle. Most passengers out of the EU would need to secure a US transit visa first. It is the same with Canada, though perhaps it would be easier and faster to obtain a Canadian transit visa.
Flight rates to Mexico, with a stopover in the USA or Canada, start at around €300.00 from many European cities.
Flights to Mexico City (CDMX) from Europe
Mexico City is the capital city, and it benefits of a higher number of direct flights. Flying into CDMX provides travelers with a potential interesting itinerary as there interesting places to visit. We would recommend Centro (historical center) and the ruins at Teotihuacan. From Mexico City travelers could head North to San Luis Potosi or south Oaxaca then to Yucatan.
The following is a sample of direct flights from European cities to Mexico City. The rates are in Euros and show the starting price. The sample shows flights during the month of January 2020.
London (starting at €650.00)
Paris (starting at €490.00)
Madrid (starting at €370.00)
Frankfurt (starting at €480.00)
Recently Turkish Airlines launched a direct flight from Istanbul to Mexico City. There are 3 flights per week and rates start at 460.00 euros.
- Istanbul (starting at €460.00)
While the bulk of tourists traveling to Mexico originate in the USA, Europe and Canada, there are direct flights to Mexico from Japan and South Korea. These flights are definitely more expensive when compared to the rest of the world.
Flights to Mexico City from Asia
The following is a sample of direct flights from Japan and South Korea to Mexico City. The rates are in Euros and show the starting price. The sample shows flights during the month of January 2020.
Tokyo (starting at €1150.00)
Seoul (starting at €1010.00)
There are no travel restrictions when flying domestically inside the country. As hordes of tourists started flocking to Mexico last summer, the local airlines managed to maintain most of their domestic flights. You may want to double-check their latest rules and regulations. Especially new baggage restrictions that are applied in order to increase profits. We have had such an event when flying from Mexico City to Cozumel with Volaris Airlines. Volaris has recently introduced a new class scheme starting with a tier called “Basic” which only includes a small personal item. This is not mentioned when booking via third-party agents such as Expedia, Bravofly, etc. Also, the “Basic” tier is not being mentioned either. The Volaris website does mention generous baggage for ALL the flights as you can see on their page here! It seems that they have not updated all their web pages. However, the check-in staff was friendly and did not weigh or even looked at the carry-on luggage.
When flying to Mexico you will have to pass some quick interviews with the immigration personnel. This is especially true if you’re not a European Union, USA, or Canada national. You will face even more scrutiny if you’re flying into Mexico City, since the capital city is not a tourist destination. It is possible that they are looking for potential refugees that are looking to cross the Northern border into the US. It would be wise to have an itinerary set and eventually show the border agents that you have hotel bookings, onward flight tickets, and so on.
Current restrictions and lockdowns
There are several restrictions in place in certain areas of Mexico. Some states and cities may have different restrictions such as curfew. An example is the Cozumel curfew (current as of January 1, 2021) from 12:00 AM till 05:00. Another example is the closure of restaurants and certain public places in Mexico City. However, the restaurants still serve customers with takeaway orders. There are no travel and transportation restrictions in Mexico as far as we are aware.
Being a digital nomad in Mexico
Why be a digital nomad in Mexico? There are advantages to living in Mexico during the current crisis situation.
Most visitors get 6 months visa. This helps a lot. As an example, currently for a 6 months length visa (business visa) in Indonesia, you’d have to pay up to $1000.00. It is still a lot better than spending 16 days quarantine in a luxury hotel in Thailand.
The infrastructure such as the internet, power, and transportation is quite good. This is not some country in Africa that still allows tourists during the pandemic.
The cost of living is still affordable. Apartments can be rented for as low as $20.00 per night via Airbnb and other digital venues.
Lots of sightseeing and amazing cultures. Not only you will be able to work, but you can also visit fantastic ruins (Maya, Aztec, etc) and beautiful nature.
Where to live in Mexico
Based on the Mexican tourism authority there were about 3 million tourists in the Cancun area in December 2020. That tells you which area of Mexico is being flooded by foreign tourists and digital nomads. It is true that most expatriates live in the Yucatan peninsula. This is due to the warm weather, overall better safety, proximity to the beaches, and being close to other ex-pats.
However, there are other good places to live in Mexico. I could mention the capital Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Puerto Vallarta. These places are great alternatives to Yucatan and can be even cheaper than Cancun or Playa del Carmen.
Costs of living
Mexico is a lot cheaper than the USA and Europe when it comes to almost everything. However, with the influx of tourists in certain areas of the country, the prices are slowly going up. Especially hotels and apartment rentals. Renting an apartment in Cancun or Playa del Carmen can be almost as expensive as in Portugal, Poland, or even Netherlands. This is almost double the rentals in Antalya, Turkey, and more than triple the price of rentals in Jakarta and Bali.
Food and alcohol prices are still low comparing to Europe. A local beer (Tecate, Sol, Dos Equis) can be had for about 1 euro in local bars and 1 taco can cost from 1 to 2 euros depending on the restaurant or eatery.
Renting an apartment in Mexico
There are plenty of apartments for rent in Mexico. The prices are affordable but there are important things one must check, before renting. One must keep in mind that the Mexican standards are not necessarily as high as in your home country.
Things to consider before renting an apartment
We have put together a little list of things to consider before renting an apartment in Mexico.
Ask for lots of photos of the place. Make sure you see how the apartment looks and if you don’t see a certain facility in the photos, don’t assume it is present.
Check all the fees. Check the fees and understand which fees are not included in the final bill. Some fees such as city tax and housekeeping fee may not be included. Or, if they are, the renter may request that you pay them anyway.
Proximity to the center. Keep in mind that outside the city center, most Mexican cities and towns are pretty boring and there are not a lot of stores and restaurants.
Good internet connectivity. This is very important if you’re working online. Most homes in Mexico do have internet connections but the speeds can be disappointing. A 50MB per second connection would be a good place to start. Ideally, you would have a backup connection such as wired or even your sim card.
Transportation. Some small cities and towns may not have the ideal transportation connectivity. You may want to live near the center, bus terminal or perhaps near a shopping mall. Uber and Cabify do operate in certain locations in Mexico. I would recommend using Uber for areas considered less safe as their drivers are registered. I have used the Cabify App and it is not always as reliable.
IMPORTANT! Do take photos of the furniture and facilities in the apartment, upon arrival. Best is to check on all present items at check-in, preferably while the renter is present. This regardless if the booking was made through Airbnb, Booking.com, or other venues. There are reports where the guests were charged for items previously damaged.
Sim Cards and Mobile Telephony
SIM cards are pretty cheap in Mexico. The most popular networks are TelCel, TelMex, ATT, and Movistar. They are not very generous with data, however. A Movistar sim card with 4.5 GB data costs around 6 euros. You may want to purchase and activate the sim cards at a shopping mall such as Walmart, etc. It will cost perhaps double when purchased inside the airport.