Travel to the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico can and should be one of the most rewarding travel experiences you will ever have. However, good preparation will make your trip that much safer and more enjoyable. Review this checklist to make sure you have covered the most important elements of your preparation.
Travel Documentation – A passport is necessary for travel to Mexico. During the flight or upon your arrival in Mexico, (depending upon the availability of the requisite forms on your flight), you will be presented with two sets of forms to fill out. You will need to present these, along with your completed immigration form to the immigration officer station upon your arrival. He or she will stamp it and return a portion for you to bring when you leave the country. Don’t lose it, or you will have to pay a fine and waste about an hour at immigration getting a replacement. The customs form is easy to fill out (one per family group) and is similar to other such forms you may have encountered in your travels.
• Spanish is predominantly spoken in the region, and some Maya, but that is generally only spoken amongst the indigenous people. Many of the locals know English as well as a host of other languages from around the world that they have picked up from visiting tourists. It might be handy to have a translation app loaded on your smart phone or to have a Spanish-English dictionary if you have an interest in learning any of the language or already know a bit but need help with some words from time to time.
Travel Health Coverage
• Review your current health coverage plan when travelling outside of the country. You may wish to consider purchasing additional travel health insurance to make sure you are covered should you have an unforeseen health issue.
Medicines & Vaccines
If you haven’t been to the Yucatán or Mexico before, or in a long time, you are likely in for a pleasant surprise. Health, water, sewage, and transportation systems in many parts of the country are vastly improved from the time your parents vacationed there, or since the time of your last spring break trip in the 1980’s. Nevertheless, there are important steps and precautions you should take.
• Hepatitis A and B vaccinations are recommended when travelling to any tropical climate. Make sure you are up-to-date with your travel immunizations.
• Malaria, rabies, and typhoid are not significant risks anywhere unless you plan on visiting a lot of remote villages, but be on your guard for stray animals and some bats if you are visiting a lot of caves.
• If you are a diabetic or have any other chronic condition that requires regular medication, make sure you bring enough for a few extra days. Weather events, sudden cancellations or changes in schedule, or other unforeseen circumstances can extend your stay unintentionally. In the event you run out, there are clinics and drug stores (farmacias) in larger urban centers.
• Because of its latitude, Zika virus is a known risk in the Yucatán. It is spread through mosquito bites and/or subsequent sexual contact with a human carrier of the disease. Prepare yourself with a good-quality insect repellent, long sleeves and long pants are advisable for those wanting to take extra preventative measures in the early morning or after about 4:00 PM.
• Water – Stay hydrated. When out and about having access to filtered or bottled water is a good idea. Many of the better hotels and restaurants use filtered or bottled water exclusively when it comes to ice, food preparation and water served at the table. If you are not sure, you can always ask, or check a popular travel review site to see about any reported cases of stomach trouble or unsanitary conditions.
• Sun Tan Lotion – There is a lot of beautiful sunshine. However, the sun is hot and there is not much cloud coverage so the protection of SPF 30 or 60 is advisable.
• Flashlight – You may wish to take a small flashlight to use at night as many of the roads and walkways have low or no lights.
• The year-round average temperature in this region is 80°F (26.7°C), broken down this way: 92°F (33.5°C) average daily high and 68°F (20°C) at night. Relative humidity averages 70% and the area gets an average of about 40” (1,037mm) of rain, mostly in the summer months.
• You can see by the weather that it is tropical and relatively hot during the days for a good deal of the year. Your sartorial choices should reflect that. Loose fitting, lighter clothing in lighter colors and absorbent fabrics like cotton will serve you in good stead and allow you to feel cooler when outdoors. Tighter T-shirts and denim will make you perspire a bit more than you may be accustomed to than when you wear them at home.
• Long sleeves and long pants are fine any time late afternoon on and might be considered advisable as defense against biting insects.
• A good pair of walking shoes, not flip flops, for excursions is the way to go.
• Sunglasses, a hat or two, and bathing suits and cover-ups are essential accessories.
Manuel Crescencio Rejón International Airport:
• Mérida is serviced by Manuel Crescencio Rejón International Airport with daily non-stop services to major cities in Mexico (D.F, Monterrey, Villahermosa, Cancún, Guadalajara, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Toluca) and international (Miami, Houston, La Havana) and usually receives charter flight services to and from Europe and Canada.
• Cancun has the largest airport in the region, and is located in the neighboring state of Quintana Roo. It has the greatest number of non stop flights from the U.S. and Canada. Check for the distance from your destination in the Yucatan and for accessibility via bus and rental car.
• City service is mostly provided by four local transportation companies: Unión de Camioneros de Yucatán (UCY), Alianza de Camioneros de Yucatán (ACY), Rápidos de Mérida, and Minis 2000. Bus transportation is at the same level or better than that of bigger cities like Guadalajara or Mexico City. Climate-controlled buses and micro-buses (smaller in size) are not uncommon.
• The main bus terminal (CAME) offers first-class (ADO) and luxury services (ADO PLATINO, ADO GL) to most southern Mexico cities outside Yucatán with a fleet consisting of Mercedes Benz and Volvo buses. Shorter intrastate routes are serviced by many smaller terminals around the city, mainly in downtown.
Merida Airport Taxi Service – When exiting Manuel Crescencio Rejón International Airport there is a taxi stand right in front. Walk up to the window and inform them where you are going. They will give you a flat rate which you pay for up-front. Besides a nice, clean cab you may receive a mini water bottle and a packet of crackers for your trip. Nice customer bonus!
• Several groups and unions offer Taxi transportation: Frente Único de los Trabajadores del Volante (FUTV) (white taxis), Unión de Taxistas Independientes (UTI), and Radiotaxímetros de Yucatán, among others. Some of them offer metered service, but most work based on a flat rate depending on destination.
• In Mérida, taxis can be either found at one of many predefined places, waved down or pre-arranged.
• Uber also offers services in Merida
Renting a Car
• If you intend on doing a lot of local exploration, or plan on visiting local markets restaurants or other attractions, you may consider the flexibility of renting a car. Remember the following when evaluating and costing out your decision:
o Mexican car rental companies insist that you take supplemental insurance which will considerably increase your cost quoted by the car company. We recommend that you take the maximum insurance option – irrespective of any prevailing Mexican law, if you are in a traffic accident, reports suggest that Mexican law will almost always favor the local driver, cyclist or pedestrian. Resulting penalties can mean stiff fines and/or arrest. Your car insurance carrier or credit card company may be not be able to assist much to get you out of a jam; having Mexican car insurance provided by the renter will be your best option to minimize your trouble.
o Have a GPS when driving through Mexico. Download an app such as Google Maps on your cell phone, or rental car companies can provide a GPS in the car for an extra fee.
o Take the more well-travelled roads when possible. Not all roads in the Yucatán are well-maintained and some may not accommodate a vehicle not equipped for off-road use. In the smaller towns, road signs are often washed out and unreadable
o At night, certain roads will not have streetlights and can be difficult to navigate for those unfamiliar with the surroundings. When driving through villages, watch for people walking or cycling , or stray dogs crossing the road, and there are usually sizeable topes, or speed bumps that can easily damage your vehicle or its occupants and are not easy to see.
It is an Adventure – Remember to Have Fun
Few things in life compare with travel when it comes to the transformational experience one gets in visiting new places, seeing different people and trying new foods, culture and activities. Modern day security considerations, the continual economization and de-contenting of air travel, and the general stress and anxiety associated with being in unfamiliar languages, airports and circumstances can wear a traveler down. So it is important to keep in mind why you are there – to relax, disconnect from your usual routine and re-charge your battery so you will be ready to return to your regular life re-energized.