The final part of our Essential Backpackers Guide to North America takes us to Mexico. The country of Mexico is a vast one, offering a variety of terrains showcasing some of nature's most impressive wonders. However, Mexico is also a country in flux. Some of its cities, like Cancun and Mexico City, are every bit as modern and technically friendly as their neighbours to the north. Nevertheless, other areas are economically depressed and seem to be stuck in an era reminiscent of the 1940s and 50s.
It is not likely you will be able to see the entire country unless you have a lot of time to work with. So plan your travels well. Mexico is one country that requires you pay attention to your transportation budget carefully – the public bus system is expensive. If you plan to hitchhike, use caution in areas south of the US border known for drug and human trafficking. You might even do well to stay away from the border towns.
What to See and Do
If you are entering Mexico from the States, Southern California is probably your best bet. The Baja Peninsula is a great place to start your journey along the Pacific coast on the country's western side. From La Paz at the southern end of the peninsula, you can take a boat across the Gulf of California to the coastal city of Mazatlan. Also known as the ‘Peal of the Pacific’, it is a gorgeous city with an exceptional nightlife culture.
As you leave Mazatlan, you can head east toward the Durango region or south-east toward Mexico City. In either direction, you will find plenty of small towns and rural areas where you'll be able to meet locals who can teach you what Mexico is like apart from the tourist spots. There are acres upon acres of ranches, open desert, and mountainous regions to enjoy. At some point, make sure you get to Mexico City.
Mexico City is the country's capital and one of the largest metropolitan areas in North America. Anything you could find in London or New York you can also find there. You will have your choice of dining and accommodations, sporting events, cultural events and historical sites to take in.
You can head south from Mexico City to Acapulco, or head east around the Gulf to Cancun. Either destination will give you a major airport you can use to catch a flight back to Europe from. Both are also a great stop for winding down. You will enjoy excellent weather, wonderful beaches, and locals you will find truly hospitable.
The most important thing to remember when you visit Mexico is always abide by local laws. Mexican officials are very strict. Also keep in mind that Mexico is relatively affordable outside of the major tourist traps. Bus transportation is likely going to be your single biggest expense while you are there. Other than that, enjoy yourself and take lots of pictures. North America has a lot to offer the avid backpacker.