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Mexico: It's Not All About Salsa and Senorita's

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Dyani Ellwood
Dyani Ellwood

I have a friend who is heading to Mexico in two months - thank god! He's been talking about going for so long that we're at that stage where we want to scream at him, "Just get up and bloody go already!" How timely then, given that he's been talking about leaving for months on end, that all this fighting, violence and drug lord and cartel business has erupted on a huge scale in Mexico. I can't help but wanting to have a wee laugh.

On a more serious note, I thought I'd do a seemingly nice act of kindness and try and hunt down a few tips for those stray Kiwis or Aussies that are intending to trek to South America in the next few months because it’s too late for them to refund their flights.

  • Learn some of the native lingo. Not just 'hi' and 'corona please'. Given the uncertainty (or certainty) of bumping into people you don't want to bump into, you may as well travel prepared with some sound vocabulary i.e. 'Don't kill me, I'm from New Zealand, we only do rugby and sheep down there."
  • You can visit a site like to get free instructions and practice with native speakers through online chats.
  • Do map out destinations in advance - for goodness sake try not to venture into the heart of Juarez at all costs. Ask your friends, family and colleagues about places to visit as well as avoid.
  • Do not dress like a tourist at all costs. Try and mix in with the locals as much as possible. In the case of going undercover as a native Mexican, maybe think about carrying a gun and growing a dirty looking moustache.
  • Obey the law. Consular assistance cannot override local laws, even where local laws appear harsh or unjust (hole in the head versus handing over your passport kind of stuff.)
  • Make copies of your passport details, insurance policy, travellers cheques, visas and credit card numbers. Carry one copy in a separate place to the originals and leave a copy with someone at home – preferrably not a brother or sister who’ll have no quaims about racking up a few dollars with your credit card number, and/or flying over to visit you at your expense.

My only other personal advice is to try not to think about what could go wrong. You don’t want to get to the end of your overseas venture and find you’ve been living this hermit like existence (all pale, dark and brooding because you haven’t dared to leave your hostel). At the end of the day ‘que sera sera’ – what ever will be, will be.

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