Mexico for Digital Nomads
I was touring through Mexico for almost six weeks in April and May 2016. I summed up my experiences and how suitable Mexico is for digital nomads in the following article.
Facts About Mexico
Mexico feels and sounds like it belongs to Latin America but in fact it is part of North America. It borders the USA in the north and Guatemala and Belize in the south. The country is shaped by its aboriginal people (Mayan, Aztec and other nations such as Zapotec) and the conquest through the Spanish. Many cities are typical colonial towns with colourful houses and magical historic districts which have imposing cathedrals as well as green inviting plazas. The ruins of the natives are seldom far away which makes it easy to plan a day excursion to a cultural site. For those who want to experience history and culture, this is the perfect place. But also nature fans have everything they desire. The tropical, white sandy beaches and the deep jungles with their immense biodiversity are impressive and simply stunning. A specialty of the country are the cenotes: Holes of limestone which origin from fallen ceilings and which are filled with fresh water. They often are perfect as a starting point for diving through the cave systems around.
Information About Entry and Departure
You can only enter Mexico with a passport which should be valid for at least another six months. A personal identification card is not enough to enter.
You don’t have to consider anything when you enter coming from Germany. You receive a card of entry which you have to keep until your departure. You can stay up to three months in the country. Upon departure, you might have to pay an exit fee (around 390 Pesos which is about 20 Euro). Unfortunately, I was not aware of that, but when you enter via air, this fee is included in the ticket! The border control keeps the money, therefore you have to show your flight ticket. The stamp in the passport is not enough and won´t save you from paying! The fee does only have to be paid if you enter via country way and are in the country for more than 10 days. If you don’t know this, you will have to pay.
There are no mandatory vaccinations to enter Mexico. Though, as in most exotic countries it is smart to get vaccinated against typhus and hepatitis A & B. You can read here which vaccinations every frequent traveler with a love for tropical countries should have.
Mexico is known as a safe country for travelers which I can confirm based on my own travels. I didn’t experience or hear about any form of crime. Nevertheless, there are areas which are better to be avoided. It is best to stay in touristic areas and do excursions to remote places only after consultation with locals. They know very well where it could be dangerous. Generally, it is better to be safe than sorry!
The Mexican Peso (MXP) is used in Mexico as a currency. When I was there in spring 2016 one Euro was equal to around 20 Pesos.
The ATMs in Mexico usually charge a fee to withdraw money. Since DKB (German Credit Bank) changed its conditions it is better to think twice when and how much money you want to withdraw. One time (for example on Holbox Island in the Gulf of Mexico) I even experienced that my DKB-Visa Card was not accepted and I had to use my Master Card instead. The fees differ from machine to machine and are not necessary dependent on the bank institution but on the branch. It is best to inquire about it at your accommodation. Maybe they can tell you there, which ATM has the lowest fees.
If you were surprised about the slowness of the up- and download speed, you will be in shock now: The fastest WIFI which I have experienced in Mexico was at a friend´s house in Playa del Carmen with around 10 MB Download. The upload speed there was extremely bad. In parts of Mexico where I have been, it was not faster than 2 MB. If you are dependent on fast internet, you should think twice whether or not this country is the right one for you.
The cost of a sim-card in Mexico is around 2 Euros. The data packages therefore are pretty expensive. I paid 20 Euros for a package with 2 GB (2016). The most famous service provider is Telcel. Fast internet is generally a problem in Mexico. This is the same with mobile data. I mostly had around 2 MB download-speed and a little less than 1 MB upload-speed.
Another possibility for mobile internet access is a MiFi device, which creates a WiFi network for you. I have tested the GlocalMe device and think it’s a really useful addition of my travel equipment. You can either use it as an ordinary wireless router with up to two SIM cards (very useful if you work with mobile TANs, you want to be available on your local number or if you want to use the social networks with a 2-factor authentication) but you can also use it without a physical SIM card but with the built in cloudSIM technology (which is of course more expensive) in over 100 countries worldwide. Apart from that it’s also a 6000 mAh powerbank, which is never bad to have with you.
Living in Mexico as a Digital Nomad
I stayed only with locals and in hostels in Mexico, only twice in real hotels. The prices vary extremely according to the region. In Chiapas you can find a bed in a hostel dorm for only 100 Pesos (around 5 euro) whereas the cost in Quintana Roo is up to three times the price. The breakfast usually is included. If you eat mainly Street Food and buy your groceries in the supermarket, you can survive on 100 Pesos a day for food and beverages. Restaurant visits are becoming expensive if you do them regularly and don’t eat only Tacos – the national dish. Those are small Tortillas, how we would call them, with meat or vegetables as a filling. One costs between 8 and 15 Pesos. Whereas a burrito – which is more satiable – is around 60 to 90 Pesos in a normal restaurant. Car rentals are pretty expensive in Mexico, the prices are similar to the ones in Central Europe. I wanted to rent a car in Tulúm but then changed my plans due to the price. When I was in San Cristóbal, I rented one with Melanie from “Good morning world” and two friends, which cost us 45 Euros a day. But you really can go with public transportation. There are busses, smaller distances can be covered with so-called colectivos (smaller busses or vans) or collective taxis and for longer distances there is a well-developed net of long-distance coaches. The busses are unfortunately not as comfortable as they are in South America but they also have television and sometimes even WIFI. Recommendation: If you travel with the ADO (that is the biggest long-distance company), you should download the App and buy the ticket through it. You can get up to 50% discount. On the website you can only pay with Mexican credit cards. Using the app international cards are accepted!
20 important words/phrases in Spanish
|Where is …?||Donde es ….?|
|My name is …?||Me llamo ….?|
|I don’t speak Spanish.||No hablo español.|
|Do you speak English?||Habla inglés?|
|I am from Germany.||Soy de Alemania.|
|Could you help me?||Me podría ayudar?|
|I need …||Necesito ….|
|How mich is this?||Cuanto cuesta? / Cuanto es?|
|Shopping Center||Centro comercial|
If you want to learn some more Spanish just write a comment or an email. I can help you out!
Personally, I think Mexico is a wonderful country for digital nomads. Uploads can take some time, but normal work should be doable with the Wi-Fi connection and even skype call should work.