High season in most areas lasts from December to April, when temperatures are generally more bearable. The hotter, wetter season is from May to November - rain ranges from late-afternoon showers to days of prolonged downpours, with a risk of hurricanes in coastal areas between August and October.
South of the tropic of Cancer (which cuts across Mexico north of Tampico) it's hot and humid, particularly along the coastal plains and the Yucatán Peninsula. Inland, at higher elevations, it's much drier and temperate. Mountain areas can get very cold in winter, and often have snow.
Mexico has a reputation for constant festive fun: just about every month brings a major national holiday or fiesta, and every other day is a local saint's day celebration. The most important public holidays are:
January 1: New Year's Day
February 5: Constitution Day
February 24: Day of the Flag
Late February / early March: Carnaval (Carnival) - the big bash before the 40-day penance of Lent
March 21: Anniversary of Benito Juárez's birth
March/April: Good Friday and Easter Sunday
May 1: Labour Day
May 5: Celebration of the 1862 victory over the French
September 16: Independence Day - celebrating the start of the war for independence from Spain
October 12: Día de la Raza - celebrating Columbus' 'discovery' of the New World
November 2: Día de los Muertos ('Day of the Dead'), held the day after All Saints'. The souls of loved ones are believed to return to earth on this day, and for weeks beforehand markets are awash with candy skulls and papier-mâché skeletons that form part of welcoming shrines (along with fruit and other offerings) for the spirits
November 20: Día de la Revolución - anniversary of the 1910 revolution
December 12: Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, celebrating the country's major religious icon
December 25: Christmas Day
Note: flight, boat, train and bus timetables change constantly, and airlines come and go, so please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning. Check with relevant companies, or a flight search engine like Skyscanner, first.
From the UK and Europe
British Airways offers scheduled flights from London Heathrow to Mexico City, and from London Gatwick to Cancún. Virgin Atlantic also has London Gatwick-Cancún flights. Thomson Airways has direct flights from London to Puerto Vallarta.
Iberia flies from cities across Europe to Mexico City via Madrid, with connecting flights to Cancún. In addition, KLM flies to Mexico City and Cancún from Amsterdam, Air France has services from Paris Charles de Gaulle, and Lufthansa flies from Frankfurt.
You can also fly from major European cities to destinations across Mexico via the USA - Continental, American Airlines and Aeromexico have comprehensive networks.
Discount fares and charter flights:
There are numerous charter flights from the UK and Europe to Cancún - check discounted travel agents for cheap tickets (cheapflights.com gives an extensive list of the latest deals on offer).
If you can find a good deal on flights to the US, you can travel overland or buy an onward flight from there. Miami has reasonably priced onward flights to a number of Mexican destinations, which are normally cheaper than flights to other Latin American countries.
Another good way to travel around Mexico from the UK is with an open-jaw ticket (the most popular route is into Mexico City and out of Cancún or vice-versa).
From the US and Canada
There are flights to Mexico from virtually every American city, including services to smaller airports such as Puerto Escondido, Mérida, Oaxaca and Huatulco. For the speediest connections, fly from Miami (on British Airways, American Airlines or Virgin Atlantic), from Houston (with Continental) or from Atlanta (with Delta). If you live close to the border, you may find it’s easier to cross into Mexico and take an internal flight (Aeromexico has cheap flights to numerous destinations within Mexico).
Air Canada has flights from Toronto and Montreal to Mexico City and Cancún, and Air Transat flies to Cancún from Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.
Ferries connect Baja California with a number of ports on the mainland: Santa Rosalia to Guayamas, and La Paz to Mazatlan and Topolobampo. For detailed information on fares and schedules, check mexconnect.com. There are also smaller boats to islands off the Caribbean coast e.g. from Chetumal to Xcalak, and to neighbouring countries e.g. Xcalak to Belize.
From 1997, bus companies have been allowed to come into Mexico from the US (before, they had to stop at the border). Companies operating between the 2 countries include Greyhound, Autobuses Americanos and El Expreso.
Due to the vast size of Mexico, travelling by air is a good option, especially if you have limited time. The main airlines are Aeromexico, Aeromar and Vivaaerobus, which fly between the larger cities
Provincial cities are served by a number of smaller airlines, including Viva Aerobus, Volaris and Interjet.
Puerto Escondido can be reached from Mexico City with Aeromar or Vivaaerobus. Or you can fly from Oaxaca with Aerotucan Airlines or Aerovega - purchase Aerovega tickets at Oaxaca airport or in Oaxaca city via the travel agents attached to the bus station.
Flying in Mexico is often good value for money when compared with other forms of transport. The cheapest fares are usually for late evening flights booked 7 days in advance. Domestic flights are subject to consumer tax (15%) and an airport tax (about US$8.50). Tickets purchased in Mexico normally include taxes; if you've bought your ticket outside Mexico, you will have to pay the airport tax at check-in.
Car hire is available in most Mexican cities, but it can be expensive and isn't particularly cost-effective unless you’re going on a short weekend trip to somewhere more remote from a larger town. If you do rent a car, Jeep-styles are best as they cope better with the jagged speed bumps. Expect to have to change a tyre at least once due to the potholes which blight most roads.
See our car rental recommendations. US, Canadian, British, Irish, Australian, New Zealand and most European driving licences are valid here, but it’s a good idea to arm yourself with an international driving licence.
Mexico is blessed with a superb bus network - which is so good it’s made the train service obsolete. To cope with the 1st and 2nd class air-conditioned buses (many of which are overnight sleepers), four-lane highways and express toll motorways have been built between all the major towns. While this makes your journey undeniably speedy, it means you won’t be seeing any of the smaller villages along the way, so bear this in mind when you plan your journey.
Reservations and bus schedules for services across Mexico can be found at ticketbus.com.
Visitors need a valid passport, and some nationalities have to obtain a visa (check with your local consulate for more information). EU citizens don't need a visa, but all travellers must have the government's 6-month tourist card (which is very easy to get hold of). US and Canadian citizens can enter the country without a passport if they have photo identification, but it's better to carry your passport with you, especially if you think you might travel onwards into Guatemala and Belize.
Plan ahead for immunisations (give yourself 6 weeks), as some injections shouldn't be taken together; diptheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid and polio are normally recommended. You may also need to take anti-malarials if visiting certain areas - consult your doctor for advice.
Most people travel happily around Mexico unafflicted by anything other than diarrhoea and an upset stomach from eating too many street tacos. But if you do get ill, consult a doctor and get a second opinion if you're worried. The local consulate or tourist office of the town you're in can usually recommend someone reliable (who will expect to be paid in cash). Most antibiotics can be bought over the counter at a chemist (make a note of any medication you're allergic to), and every Mexican town has a hospital and a Red Cross (Cruz Roja) emergency service.
Visitors from the UK should check Travel Health Advice for more information.