Mexico often gets bad media attention and many people are hesitant to visit there, let alone take their kids there. And I’ll be honest, we were scared of those stories about your children being kidnapped. But after spending three months there, if you’re wondering if you should take the family to Mexico, we would say “Take your family to Mexico!”
Most people will site the most obvious reason to go to Mexico, and that’s because it’s cheap. For currencies like the New Zealand dollar your money will stretch a lot further. And that’s probably why you were considering it in the first place.
If you want to stay in a resort, prices will be far cheaper than most options in the Pacific Islands and like most resorts around the world, they tend to have the best beaches in the area. But, like any country, there is so much to see in Mexico beyond it’s resort life.
There are 31 states in Mexico to explore and we only touched two but they each gave us unique flavours. Because there are so many indigenous ethnicities of Mexico with over 60 different languages, you’ll be able to experience a variety of different food, music, sights.
If you’re worried that your kids won’t be interested in experiencing different cultures, stop. They will be as fascinated as you are. And it’s not something you have to go out of your way to experience. They different style of dress
You might be thinking about the food because your children’s tolerance of new foods is low. That’s ok. There are plenty of places that offer foods they will be used to, but it does expose them to a variety of flavours. Hopefully, you’ll get to be surprised by the new foods they try.
The biggest concern people have about taking their children to Mexico is safety. We found Mexico as safe as visiting New Orleans or Las Vegas, and they have some dodgy areas. Like most foreign places you visit, be smart about what you’re doing at night and be respectful of other people’s beliefs and cultures. For example, in Chiapas it’s offensive to photograph religious rituals or icons. And at night time, stick to main streets where other people are milling around.
Having said that, we travelled many times late at night back to our Airbnb in all sorts of neighbourhoods and never once felt unsafe. The only time we felt unsafe was one morning when we took a photo of a cow on the back of a truck and the owner started shouting at us because he was in the photo. We realised some people don’t like to be photographed because of certain beliefs they have.
Mexicans are kid friendly people. In fact, we saw only gentle interactions with children and in spite of living amongst many humble local neighbourhoods, thanks to Airbnb, we didn’t hear any yelling or screaming which often gets associated with impoverished areas in first world countries. Many times in Chiapas we saw parents moulding their children with a few gentle words – notice I said moulding. We didn’t see any scolding. It could be just what we saw of Mexico over a period of three months but my point is that if that is the way they treat their children, then perhaps your family could be safe travelling through there?
Some areas of Mexico are so family friendly, like San Cristobal De Las Casas, that many cafes and restaurants will have playgrounds, play areas or courtyards where children can play.
On a side note, another reason you should take your kids to Mexico is because of what they’ll learn accidentally about the history of Mexico. It’s to avoid Mexico’s history when some of their big attractions are Mayan or Aztec ruins hundreds or thousands of years old.
All children I know love seeing wildlife and Mexico has a big variety on display at many of it’s parks including turtles, monkeys, jungle cats, lizards, frogs, snakes and birds. It also has great snorkelling where you might see dolphins or whales depending on the season.
Mexico is a big country that is filled with any sort of holiday you wanted for your family: a beach vacation; an intrepid journey; a cheap holiday; a cultural experience; a wildlife exploration; a natural beauty tour filled with waterfalls, mountains and jungle.
The biggest benefit of traveling around Mexico with children is the cheap and yet comfortable inter-city buses. In my posts about Mexico I’ll often go on about the ADO buses, but that’s because they are awesome. It makes traveling a breeze and very affordable.
On the topic of moving around Mexico, even getting around within a city is cheap and easy. You could catch a colectivo with the locals where you might pay anywhere from 2 pesos to 50 pesos depending on how big your journey is. We found that catching a taxi was only slightly more than what we would’ve paid for four of us in a colectivo. Don’t be afraid of the colectivos. They are super cheap and super easy to use. Just ask a local for help. We spend three months in Mexico traveling around and we didn’t hire a car once because of how easy it is to get around.
And finally, you can comfortably and cheaply travel to neighbouring countries from Mexico. With Guatemala and Belize in the south, it’s easy to catch the ADO there. And flights from Cancun or Mexico City to America are very cheap.
We arrived in Mexico completely ignorant about it. But we left having learnt so much about the place and it’s people. Here’s a summary of what we found out.
There are lots of unique ethnicities. The physical features vary quite drastically across the country. Their local food varies based on the crops available in the area. And even the patterns and designs on their clothing has a signature look.
There is a lot of beautiful jungle and forest areas. Unfortunately due to extreme poverty, many of these areas are being converted to farm land so that a family can earn a few pesos to buy bare necessities.
The northern states of Mexico are more affluent than the southern states. Chiapas is the poorest state with over 70% of it’s population living in poverty. It has the most cultural diversity and the indigenous people do not yet have full equality. Also, the government does not offer any welfare support for people in below the poverty line.
Christmas and birthday celebrations usually have a piñata and fireworks involved.
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the 8th of December is a bigger celebration than Christmas.
We spent three months in Mexico as part of our family sabbatical and found a few things we missed and some differences in local living.
Most cities will have movies showing in English but the selection isn’t usually kid friendly or the ones we were hoping to see. We had to wait for movies to be available for download in high quality to enjoy watching them.
If your Spanish isn’t that great then having a casual conversation with people can be difficult. While many tourist areas have people that speak English, there are few that are able to carry a conversation in English. When we did find fluent English speakers we savoured the moments and asked a lot of questions.
We couldn’t find butter in Mexico. Much like America, what they call “butter” has some type of vegetable oil in a milk cream product. We did find one “butter” that didn’t taste bad and an imported “butter” that was creamy enough to use in baking. But the concept of pure butter, which we take for granted in NZ, is a foreign concept in most supermarkets here.
Most of the Airbnb’s we booked didn’t have an oven and the few that did, didn’t have baking equipment. We did try out the panaderias and they do have some yummy treats but the texture and flavour isn’t the same as what we can make ourselves.
Our kids used to enjoy beef mince or seafood and in NZ, that’s good quality grass fed beef or some tasty snapper. The hygiene of meats at the local butchery or supermarket wasn’t good enough for us to purchase. In Chiapas, meat often hung in daylight, unprotected from the elements. The high end supermarkets were to out of the way to bother with so we would purchase frozen meats when possible.
All the stoves we saw were gas powered and showers used a gas heating cylinder. If the gas runs out then you could be waiting a few hours to be able to cook because we didn’t come across any of homes that had gas pipes running through the street.
Although all the airbnbs we stayed at had hot water showers, only the affluent places had hot water in any of the other taps. That meant we were often washing dishes with cold water or boiling water on the stove if needed.
The houses were made of concrete or brick and from what we saw, they were hand made. This meant that when we dropped a glass on the floor, it didn’t bounce like it used to on our wooden floors back home. It shattered. And when the kids screamed, the wooden walls didn’t absorb the sound. It reverberated to every room. But the best part was the acoustics for me to get my voice back in tune. I could hear every faulty note so clearly it was embarrassing 🙂
Apart from the tiny island of Isla Mujeres, other areas we visited had security guards or high walls or steel grills over the windows as a deterrent for petty theft.
Apart from one condominium in the Cancun Hotel Zone, every place we went to had great internet access.
When you enter you would have paid a tourism fee called FMM. If you hold onto this document and the receipt, you can exit and enter the country for 180 days without having to repay this.
Unlike many other countries that require an exit flight out of their within 90 days, Mexico do not check if you have an exit ticket. This means you don’t have to plan your trip before arriving. You can fly in and then work out how long you spend there.
Because there are comfortable buses through Central America and Mexico, you can easily, comfortably and cheaply travel throughout the region from Mexico.