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«Mexico MEXICO With a Native American heritage and a distinct Spanish flavour, Mexico is vibrant, colourful and unique. Its varied terrain ranges from ...»

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Mexico

MEXICO

With a Native American heritage and a distinct Spanish flavour, Mexico is

vibrant, colourful and unique. Its varied terrain ranges from cactus - studded

deserts to white sandy beaches and blue waters, tropical rainforest and jungle clad hills to steep rocky canyons and narrow gorges, and from snow - capped

volcano peaks to bustling cities.

Since the height of Mayan and Aztec civilisations, Mexico has suffered the

destructive force of the Conquistadors, European colonial rule, civil and territorial wars, rebellions, dictatorships, recessions and earthquakes. Yet its people remain warm and friendly, much of the countryside remains unspoilt by R e l ax a t V al l odo li d, Y u c a t a n © l a r r y & fl o development, and its cities display a unique style of architecture. The extraordinary history is reflected in the ancient Mayan temples strewn across the jungles and ruins of Aztec civilisations, rural indigenous villages, Spanish colonial cities and silver mining towns, and traditional Mexican ports.

Buildings display a unique combination of colonial and pagan architecture, blending together Art Nouveau, Baroque, Art Deco and Native American design into the structure of their churches and public structures. The country's culture displays a similar blend of the traditional and modern, where pagan meets Christian in a series of festivals, or fiestas throughout the year.

Besides a combination of unique culture and fascinating cities, Mexico also boasts several hundred miles of coastline extending down through both the Pacific and the Caribbean, which has branded the country as a popular summer retreat destination. Beach resort cities such as Acapulco, Cancun and those of the Baja California peninsula are accepted vacation havens. The countryside is also rich in archaeological treasures with pyramids, ruins of ancient cities and great stone carvings of ancient gods standing as testament to a country once ruled by the Aztecs and Mayans.

Basics Time: Mexico spans four different time zones: GMT - 6, - 7 and - 8 with daylight saving, and GMT - 7 all year round in the state of Sonora.

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

Money: Mexican currency is the New Peso (MXN) divided into 100 centavos. Credit cards are widely accepted, particularly Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Travellers cheques are generally accepted, but cannot be cashed on Sundays. ATMs are available in most cities and towns and are the most convenient way to get money, but for safety reasons they should only be used during business hours. Although most businesses will accept foreign currency it is best to use pesos. Foreign currency can be exchanged at one of many casas de cambio (exchange houses), which have longer hours and offer a quicker service than the banks.

Currency Exchange Rates MXN1.00 MXN5.00 MXN10.00 MXN100.00 MXN1,000.00 A$ 0

–  –  –

Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

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

Entry requirements for Americans: United States citizens travelling by land or sea must either be in possession of a passport, WHTI - compliant document, or a government - issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, as well as proof of citizenship, such as an original or certified birth certificate. To enter or re - enter the USA by air a passport or other valid travel document is required. A visa is not required for stays of up to 180 days, if holding a Tourist Card/FMT form issued free of charge by airlines, embassies and at border crossings. Business travellers do not require a visa for up to 30 days if holding a FMTTV form.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: British passport holders must have a passport and carry a Tourist Card/FMT Form. A visa is not required for stays of up to 180 days if holding an endorsed British Citizen passport.

If the passport is endorsed British National (Overseas) the visa exemption is for a maximum of 90 days. British passport holders travelling on business can stay visa - free for one month if in possession of a FMTTV form, which can be acquired on arrival. All other passport holders require a visa to travel to Mexico. Travellers must have a return or onward ticket (unless a British Citizen with a Tourist Card or visa), as well as necessary documents for further travel, and sufficient funds.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian passport holders must have a passport, or a government - issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, as well as proof of citizenship, such as an original or certified birth certificate.

A visa is not required for stays of up to 180 days if in possession of a Tourist Card/FMT form issued free of charge by airlines. Business travellers do not require a visa for up to 30 days if holding a FMTTV form. Travellers are required to have the necessary documents for further travel, and sufficient funds.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australian nationals must have a passport. A visa is not required for stays Entry requirements for Australians: Australian nationals must have a passport. A visa is not required for stays of up to 180 days if in possession of a Tourist Card/FMT form issued free by airlines. Travellers are required to have tickets and documents for a return or onward journey, and sufficient funds.





Entry requirements for South Africans: South Africans require a passport. A visa and Tourist Card/FMT form with consular stamp is required and is valid for 90 days after date of issue and good for one entry only. Travellers are required to have tickets and documents for a return or onward journey, and sufficient funds.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealanders must have a passport. No visa is required for a touristic stay of up to180 days, if holding a Tourist Card/FMT form issued by airlines (free of charge). Travellers are required to have tickets and documents for a return or onward journey, and sufficient funds.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals must have a passport. A visa is not required for stays of up to 180 days if in possession of a Tourist Card/FMT form issued free by airlines. Business travellers do not require a visa for up to 30 days if holding a FMTTV form. Travellers are required to have tickets and documents for a return or onward journey, and sufficient funds.

Passport/Visa Note: All visitors must hold a tourist card (FMT form), which is issued free of charge and obtainable from airlines, Mexican Consulates, Mexican international airports and border crossing points. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellers travelling by air outside the United States are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re - enter the United States.

Health: Swine flu update: The Mexican government believes the worst of the swine flu outbreak has past as tourism sites and restaurants reopen. Conflicting advice from governments and agencies have left would - be- tourists unsure if it is safe to travel to Mexico. The US Center of Disease Control had advised cancelling all but essential travel to Mexico although the World Health Organisation is advising against any travel restrictions. Airlines are still running between Mexico and most countries. As of mid - May '09 Mexico had 701 infected patients and 26 deaths although there is an encouraging drop in the number of new cases. For the latest information, including daily updates visit the WHO. Whose 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. 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 medical insurance is recommended.

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

Climate: The coast and lowlands are hot and humid all year. The interior highlands are milder and drier, but can become freezing between December and February. Rainfall is scarce throughout most of the country.

Safety: 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. Hurricanes may affect the coastal areas between June and November.

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: Business in Mexico tends to be conducted formally, particularly in initial meetings. Face - to - face contact is important in order to build a good working relationship. Dress tends to be formal with suits and ties the norm, though it can be more relaxed in hotter areas. It is always important to be punctual, although your counterpart may be late, as it is normal for Mexicans to run behind schedule. Greetings are polite and formal, using surnames and titles unless otherwise indicated. A handshake is standard, though follow your host's lead. Business cards are usually exchanged and it can be helpful to have them printed in English on one side and Spanish on the other.

English is usually used in a business context, but an attempt at speaking Spanish will be highly appreciated, and an interpreter may be necessary. Women should be aware that business is Mexico is very male dominated.

Business hours can vary, though usually from 9am to 5pm, often closing at lunchtime for an hour.

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 1900 mobile networks cover most of the country. Internet access is widely available in most of the country, 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 one standard camera. 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 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.

MEXICO CITY

Sprawling across a valley encircled by ice - capped volcanoes and mountains, atop an ancient Aztec civilisation, Mexico City is North America's highest city, and one of the worlds most densely populated. With a long and fascinating history that runs from ancient native civilisations through to the invasion of the Conquistadors and subsequent colonial rule, Mexico City has a vast number of fascinating sights and attractions.



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