Mexico–the name alone conjures up images of sun-filled plazas, white-sand beaches and archaeological treasures shrouded by jungle. The name should also conjure images of a successful business meeting complete with easy travel from the U.S. and international locations, magnificent weather and an extremely favorable exchange rate.
While a bit exotic, Mexico is far from foreign. Americans know and love the cuisine, the beaches and spectacular scenery. Add in a rich culture, strong traditions and the warmth of the people, and Mexico becomes a setting unlike any other for a team-building trip. A meeting in Mexico is guaranteed to incent, excite and enhance employee loyalty. And to help you shine.
Whether your ideal location is on the Pacific Ocean or the Caribbean Sea, Fiesta Americana, Grand Meetings Mexico is uniquely qualified to serve as your ambassador. Cancún, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta are not only some of the most beautiful and historical areas in Mexico, they are also unsurpassed business destinations.
Planning any meeting requires careful attention to detail—and meetings in Mexico are no exception. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions that will help you in your decision-making process.
Yes. Since January 27, 2007, the U.S. Department of State requires a passport for all travel to and from Mexico by air, foot, car or boat (including cruise ship or ferry. Average passport processing time is 4-6 weeks. In addition to your passport, you will be required to present a tourist visa card to the immigration officer in Mexico. This document will be given to you at the airport or in-flight; we suggest you fill it out on the plane because there is no area designated for this purpose in the arrivals terminal. The immigration officer will keep half the document and give half to you. Be sure to hold on to it—you will need to present it at check-in for your departing flight. If you lose your tourist visa, you can obtain a new one at the airport immigration office for an additional fee.
Expedited service is available for any type of passport application (first-time applications, renewals, amendments of existing passports, etc.. To obtain expedited service through the U.S. Department of State, there is a $60 charge—plus overnight delivery charges—in addition to the regular application fee. For fast results, the U.S. Department of State recommends:
Mexico's electrical system is the same as in the U.S.: 120 V; 60 Hz. In addition, all of our hotels provide the most updated electrical systems for video equipment, digital cameras, laptops, high-speed Internet and more. We also provide hair dryers in all the rooms.
The staff at all of our hotels is bilingual. Most merchants and service personnel also speak English.
Yes, you can buy Cuban cigars in Mexico. You’re not allowed to take them back to the U.S., though you can take them back to Canada.
Per U.S. Customs regulations, adults ages 21 and older may bring up to one liter of wine, beer or liquor without paying any duty.
If one of your attendees needs a taxi, your hotel will arrange it, noting the number of the cab and driver’s name. Outside the hotel, your group members should choose cabs with the sign Taxis Autorisado—part of an authorized taxi system that has been set up to ensure the safety of travelers. The cost is fairly inexpensive.
Mexico has a very affordable public transport system that includes local buses and peseros or combis (micro buses along major roads. Buses are one of the least expensive, most efficient ways to travel; they run frequently and offer accessible routes. Make sure your attendees know that they must have exact change in pesos to ride the busses. For group activities, reserve your bus tickets a day in advance, whenever possible.
For all group transfers, we recommend utilizing a local Destination Management Company (DMC. They can meet all of your transportation needs, and assist you with complete destination management services for your group or event. Please ask your hotel sales contact for a list of the DMCs we work with on a regular basis.
Most of the major highways in Mexico are easy to travel on. Traveling to off-site events over local roads may be more challenging. Please consult your hotel sales or conference services contact for information on specific roadways before traveling.
All of our hotels use purified water and offer bottled water. If your group is dining outside the hotel, they should follow these tips:
There’s an on-call doctor at each of our hotels. If the sick group member has health insurance and out-of-country benefits apply, make sure to have on-hand: copies of the insurance policy, the member ID card and a claim form. Covered services vary, depending on the policy.
Many of the major tourist cities in Mexico have both American-trained doctors and facilities able to deal with common health-care concerns. Please check with your hotel contact or the concierge at the hotel to find the closest health-care provider.
Most major restaurants and hotels throughout Mexico use purified water for their ice cubes. The ‘Distinctive H’ designates a restaurant that meets all sanitary and health safety codes. If in doubt, ask for beverages with no ice.
Mexico is actually much safer than the U.S., and the tourist police are very friendly and helpful. Just use common sense, and be careful. After dark, encourage your group members to stay on the main streets, and don’t wander the beaches late at night. Make sure no one flashes large amounts of money, and encourage everyone to leave expensive jewelry at home.
As with any major city, please use common sense and put valuables in your hotel-provided room safe.
Please refer to the U.S. Department of State website for any active travel warnings or alerts in areas of Mexico. Most tourist destinations are perfectly safe and no security escorts are needed for off-site events.
Hurricane season lasts from June until November, though most hurricanes occur between August and October. Hurricanes and tropical storms in Mexico can affect weather on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, the Gulf Coast and the Pacific coast. If a hurricane should occur, our hotels have storm shelters for your group’s safety.
Most cell phones work in Mexico, but they have to be programmed by a local service provider. If you bring your own cell phones, have them programmed before your trip, and remember to have them reprogrammed before returning to the U.S.
Yes, wireless Internet service is provided in each of our hotels’ business centers, and also in the rooms.
All of our hotels offer a firewalled server and secure Internet connections. In the event you require additional security for your meeting, please consult your hotel sales or conference services contact.
Always use a customs broker to ship materials to Mexico. Documents sent from the U.S. to Mexico should take about 48 hours; however, they will not automatically be delivered to your hotel. Contact your Conference Service Manager to help ensure that someone is on the other end to clear items from the customs house. Also remember to review the customs regulations for foreign entertainment.
In Mexico, a value added tax (VAT of 16% is generally imposed on the sale of all goods and services. However, Mexico has eliminated the VAT for the meetings market. To quality for 0% VAT, your program must be an international congress meeting, convention, expo or fair/trade show. Other taxes still apply.
The U.S. dollar is widely accepted in Mexico, and cash is always the preferred method of payment. Just realize that if you buy something with dollars, you’ll get your change back in pesos.
As of 03/06/2015, $1 USD = 15.46 MXN (pesos. Mexican Peso (MXN; symbol M$ = 100 centavos.
Since currency exchange rates vary from place-to-place and day-to-day, where and how you exchange currency can make a difference to your wallet. To get the best exchange rate, wait until you arrive at your destination. While most major airports feature a currency-exchange desk, you are likely to get a better rate directly from an ATM machine affiliated with a major bank.
Exchange houses have varying rates of exchange. It’s best to do your research prior to venturing out, as some also charge a fee to make monetary exchanges. The hotels have up-to-date exchange rates and also a secure way to exchange money.
All major credit cards (except Discover are accepted in Mexico; Visa and MasterCard are preferred. In restaurants, it’s best to ask before ordering, because not every business accepts credit cards. All the banks will give cash advances, and most have ATMs. Sometimes credit cards charge an additional fee for foreign exchange. To inquire about additional charges, we recommend you contact your bank.
International card activity is a “red flag” for many credit card companies. To prevent declined transactions, we recommend that your attendees apprise their credit card companies of the dates they will be traveling in Mexico.
Please consult your hotel sales or conference services contact. Usually a wire transfer will have to be processed for the amount to deposit and once cleared, the funds can be made available for distribution. Please note exchange rates will tend to fluctuate.
In Mexico, tipping is customary, expected, and very much appreciated in return for services. Make sure your group members always keep loose change in their pockets for tipping. Waiter: 10% to 15%. Bartender: 10%. Concierge: $2 to $5. Porter: $1 to $2 per bag. Housekeeping: $2 to $5 per day. Taxi driver: small change. Spa services: 10% to 15%. Hairdresser: 10% to 15%.
In most cases, you'll have some foreign currency left over by the time you're ready to return home. You can convert it back to dollars at the airport, or:
U.S. residents who have been out of the country for at least 48 hours may bring home $400 of foreign goods duty-free, but only if they have not used the $400 allowance or any part of it in the past 30 days. Those 21 and older may bring back one liter of alcohol duty-free. Any resident (regardless of age can bring back 200 cigarettes and 100 non-Cuban cigars.
The beaches along the coastline of Cancún and the Mayan Riviera have been completely refurbished with white coral sand and returned to their original width, thanks to a $71 million beach-restoration project. All the beaches in Mexico are public.
Yes, the beaches are generally just as safe as in the States. However, be aware that if black or red flags are up, no one should go in the water. Strong undertow and rough surf are common along beaches throughout Mexico, especially on the Pacific coast.
While shells may seem like insignificant souvenirs, they are an important part of the Mexican ecosystem. What’s more, bringing them to the U.S. may upset the ecosystem where you live—particularly if you place the shells in an aquatic environment. If you wish to bring shells home with you, please purchase them from a store where the shells have been cleaned and disinfected.
It's true that there have been recent safety concerns regarding travel to Mexico, but what many don't consider is that Mexico is a country three times the size of Texas. The tourist and travel spots aren't only removed from any travel advisory areas, but they're also safer than most major U.S. cities, and are concentrated hundreds of miles away near the U.S. border. In fact, according to Jayne Clark from USA Today, "Despite any [travel concerns], visitation to Mexico was up almost 19% over last year."
Now's not the time to visit our southerly neighbor, right? Well, wrong. Mexico is a lot safer than you may realize. –Robert Reid, CNN.com