Following the inception of agriculture around 7,000 BC, Mexico was home to an array of successful civilisations, including the Olmec, Aztec, Zapotec and the Maya. The great temple at Chitchen Itza, the most impressive legacy of the latter people, is a wonder to rival sites like Macchu Picchu, Petra or the Pyramids at Giza.
As well as a long history, this vast country has a diverse geography, stretching from temperate to tropical, snow-capped mountain to furnace-hot desert and from Pacific to Atlantic shores. Whether you prefer to chill in modern surrounds or venture intrepidly into the back of beyond, there’s enough of everything here to satisfy your needs.
Mexico City, the world’s third largest metropolis sprawled across a highland basin, is a maelstrom of activity that buffets the visitor from strange encounter to unexpected experience, before depositing the bewildered traveller in a calm oasis of tranquil sophistication or unutterable beauty. Trek through the jungle and discover hidden temples in secret landscapes so ‘Lost World’ you half expect a T-Rex to come careering round a corner. There are plenty of ancient tombs and cracked canyons to explore, experiences that will infuse you with the spirit of Indiana Jones, or you can just chill out on sun-kissed beaches and kayak with sharks and sea lions.
One thing Mexico is short of is time – it just seems to vanish, swallowed by the gaping interior. Business, on the other hand, can drag on for weeks; the words maňana, maňana might be considered a national battle-cry.
Mexico City and Cancun take intercontinental flights; approximately 20 smaller airports serve regional and US routes. Buses link to Belize, Guatemala and the US.
The domestic flight network is extensive and good value. There are few rail services but the bus network is good. The highway system is extensive but car rental can be expensive.
Time: Peso (MXN)
Climate: Subtropical, varied. Generally hot, wet summers and warm, dry winters. Temperature (Mexico City): Max 25°C (April), Min 6°C (January). Rainfall: Max 170mm (July), Min 20mm (February).
Currency: UTC-8 to UTC-6
Business etiquette: Business suits are the norm. Greet with a handshake and eye contact. Business meetings tend to be formal, particularly at first meeting, and it is not uncommon for them to start late and overrun.
Tipping: Tip generously; most waiters earn little or no wage.
Duty free: 400 cigarettes; 3l wine, spirits or beer; A reasonable amount of perfume; 1 camera; 12 unexposed rolls of film.
Safety: Oaxaca has experienced civil unrest since 2008 and armed rebels are present in Chiapas. There is a high level of violent crime throughout Mexico. The states bordering the US have been most affected.
Laws: Political activity by foreign nationals is prohibited. Possession of archaeological artefacts can lead to arrest. If you rent/borrow a car, you are responsible for any illegal items found in it.
Healthcare: Vaccinations include hepatitis A, tetanus and typhoid. Medical facilities are good and medicines are often available with prescription. Health insurance is recommended.
Socket type: Type A