This section on business travel provides an overview of business customs and travel tips that may be useful during your time working in Mexico.
Mexican businesspeople in major cities place a great deal of importance on appearances, and in many settings generally dress more formally than in most U.S. cities. We recommend wearing professional attire when meeting with prospective business partners in Mexico, and it is advisable to avoid overly casual clothes and athletic shoes when going out to business meals.
Being sensitive to typical business hours and mealtimes is extremely important. It is not uncommon for offices to open at 10:00 a.m. and for people to work until 8:00 p.m. or later. This means that during the week, many Mexicans follow a pattern of five meals, with desayuno consisting of fruit or a pastry between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. before going to work, a somewhat heavier almuerzo around 10:30 a.m. or 11:30 a.m., a heavy lunch called comida generally after 2:00 p.m., an evening snack called merienda, and/or a light dinner or cena after 8 p.m. Don’t try to schedule a meeting between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. unless it is a lunch meeting.
The business lunch is a key tool in Mexico. Use it to build relationships and discuss matters in greater leisure. Before beginning a business discussion, it is common to discuss family, recent events, or other social themes. Mexican businesspeople and government contacts may smoke and drink during business meals. Business lunches can span two hours or more and, again, usually do not begin until 2:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. Many restaurants do not open for lunch before 1:30 p.m. and most restaurants do not begin offering dinner before 7:30 p.m.
Patience is key when doing business in Mexico. Business meetings in Mexico will often take longer than they would in the United States. Mexican social etiquette often includes more small talk before business. Social custom makes it difficult to say no. Therefore, “yes” does not always mean yes. In conversation, Mexicans emphasize tactful and indirect phrasing, and may be more effusive than Americans with praise and emotional expressions. Email communication may be significantly more formal than it is in U.S. practice, and it is courteous to mirror this formality in your own correspondence. The mobile messaging application WhatsApp is popular for quick, informal communications. Do not be overly aggressive while negotiating. It is considered rude.
The concept of time is flexible in Mexico. Guests to social events (except in the case of cities in the North) can arrive up to an hour late. However, punctuality is the norm for most business and government appointments.
Business cards are used extensively. Come with a large supply. Mexican pesos are used throughout the country. It is not legal or common to pay with U.S. dollars (although in border regions and tourist areas dollars are sometimes accepted).
The State Department provides a security assessment of every state in Mexico. All U.S. travelers and investors to the country are strongly encouraged to review the State Department’s Mexico Travel Advisory and other country-specific travel information. We also recommend you register your trips through the Safe Traveler Enrollment Program, which will allow you to receive security updates and instructions in the event of a natural disaster or other incident.
If a U.S. businessperson wants to reside in Mexico and work on a more permanent basis, it is necessary to obtain a Temporary Mexico Resident Card, which has a validity of up to four years.
For definitive immigration regulations from the Government of Mexico, please review the information on immigration law and regulations (in Spanish only).
All U.S. citizens must have a passport or passport card to enter Mexico. Passport cards can be used only to cross into Mexico within 13 miles from the border. Passports are required for air travel or for land border travel when visiting any state in Mexico that is outside of this border zone. There is a single visa form for tourist and business visitors, valid for 180 days upon entry with no fee.
A new system was implemented in 2023 that replaced the old Visitor Card (the Forma Migratoria Múltiple or FMM). The new system involves a stamp (sello migratorio) called the Forma Migratoria Múltiple Digital or FMMD. Passengers arriving at land crossings or any of Mexico’s 66 international airports will receive the stamp in their passports that shows the date of arrival and length of stay allowed (up to 180 days without a visa). Upon departure, air travelers may be asked to show their stamp at the airline’s ticket counter. If you enter Mexico by land, make sure to get the FMMD stamp in your passport.
Additionally, the Mexico City airports (both AIFA and Benito Juarez) and Cancun airport are currently using a new system for tourists called Filtros Migratorios Autonomos (E-Gates), which is scheduled to be rolled out nationwide later in 2023. Tourists who carry regular passports with a chip from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, and Mexicans with dual citizenship can choose to use the E-Gates system instead of going through an immigration official to get a stamp. Tourist travelers just need to scan the passport at the E-Gates booth, and it will print a ticket with their arrival information and indicate a 180-day valid stay. The E-Gates booth will also take a photo of the traveler’s face. The ticket issued by the E-Gates is official and valid to check-in with the airline when departing Mexico. The E-Gates system is not for residents of Mexico, whether permanent or temporary, but for tourists only.
For further information please visit the Mexican Secretariat of Tourism website.
United States companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Applicants for a U.S. visa should go to the following links:
Expedited Entry into the U.S. and Mexico
Members of the U.S. Global Entry program know how convenient it is for entry into the United States. Global Entry allows U.S. citizens and residents of select countries, including Mexico, who have applied and been approved to have expedited entry at airport immigration and customs facilities when returning to the United States. Global Entry membership also gives you access to SENTRI lanes at the U.S.-Mexico land border. If you are not a Global Entry member, you can get more information and apply at the Global Entry website.
Mexico has a similar program for frequent travelers entering Mexico by air called the Programa Viajero Confiable (Trusted Traveler Program). Members of Viajero Confiable who are Mexican Nationals can now also apply for NEXUS to have expedited entry at airports in Canada.
Viajero Confiable provides similar benefits for entering Mexico and is in operation at airports in Mexico City, San Jose del Cabo, and Cancun. The application may be done online. Once preapproved, applicants must undergo an interview at an enrollment center at one of the three Mexican airports for final approval. Membership is good for five years and you can apply at the program website.
NEXUS offers benefits at airport and land border ports of entry in Canada. For more information visit the NEXUS website.
Those who cross the U.S. land border regularly but do not need the full benefits of Global Entry might be interested in membership in SENTRI, open to all nationalities who meet membership criteria. Information on the program is available at the SENTRI website.
Mexico’s currency is the Mexican peso. In the first half of 2022, the average exchange rate was approximately 20 pesos to the U.S. dollar, with the U.S. dollar steadily losing value in 2023 to around 17 pesos to the U.S. dollar in July 2023. In most cities and tourist areas, credit and debit cards are widely accepted in established businesses. There is usually easy access to ATMs that accept U.S. ATM networks. Take the usual precautions to prevent skimming or theft of your card and banking information, including your PIN, and be cautious of anyone approaching you at ATM machines.
In Mexico, cellular telephones and smart phones are used by 75.5 percent of the population. On mobile devices, country codes may be dialed with a plus sign (+) before the country code. Mexico’s country code is +52 and it is +1 for the United States. The three main mobile carriers are Telcel, Movistar, and AT&T, and all offer national coverage and international roaming services. Telcel and AT&T offer packages with no roaming charges throughout North America, available through T-Mobile and AT&T in the United States.
According to the Federal Institute of Telecommunications (Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones or IFT) 72 percent of the population above six years old has Internet access in Mexico. Tourist and business hotels provide Internet services in rooms or in business centers. Internet hotspots are common. Free Wi-Fi is offered in select public spaces through the government-sponsored Internet para Todos (Internet for Everyone) program, and most restaurants and cafes offer free Wi-Fi. Mexico still has many Internet cafes that offer Internet access for a fee.
Mexico uses the same voltage (120v) and the same size wall plugs as the United States.
Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tijuana, Querétaro, and other Mexican cities have frequent direct and non-stop flights from major U.S. cities. American carriers to Mexico include American, Delta, United, Jet Blue, and Southwest. Mexican carriers providing scheduled service within Mexico include Aeromexico, Volaris, and Viva Aerobus.
Taxis, Uber, and Road Transportation
It is important to ONLY use registered sitio taxi services or application-based car services such as Uber throughout the country, including using only the taxi vendor booths located INSIDE the airports. For Uber or other app-based services such as Cabify, you will need to check if there is service in your city of destination, download the app, and configure a profile and payment account (preferably prior to arrival). Hotels and restaurants can also call a sitio or radio taxi for you. The taxi driver will provide you with a receipt (un recibo) upon request. For airport taxis, the receipt is usually the pre-paid stub from your ticket. App-based services may face local restrictions. For more information, please see the State Department’s Mexico Travel Advisory.
The Mexico City Benito Juarez International Airport offers a fixed price taxi service to any point in the city. You can pay with a credit card or pesos, and you purchase tickets at one of several taxi company booths just after exiting the customs area. The fare from the airport to most areas within the city can vary widely as Mexico City is so large but should average MXN 200-350 for car service (rates are higher for a SUV). Alternatively, travelers can use the Uber app for an airport pickup and to move around Mexico City. Allow time for travel to and from the airport to major hotels. While the trip can take as little as 20 minutes in light traffic in the middle of the night, the same trip can take nearly two hours if accidents, demonstrations, rain, or other occurrences disrupt traffic.
The Monterrey General Mariano Escobedo Airport has a very similar taxi service. The fare to most locations in Monterrey is about MXN 250-300. With your ticket in hand, exit the lobby, and an attendant from the taxi company will guide you to your taxi. Alternatively, travelers can use the Uber app for an airport pickup and to move around Monterrey. Airport and Flight Information is available by calling +52 (81) 8345 4434.
The fare from Guadalajara International Airport to most locations in Guadalajara is about MXN 260-420. The trip from the airport to Guadalajara can take up to 45 minutes, depending upon traffic. Uber pickups from Guadalajara’s airport are restricted and it is better to take a sitio taxi by prepurchasing the fare from the TAXI booth located immediately after exiting customs. For airport and flight Information, call +52 (33) 3688-5894.
Sitio taxi services and Uber (depending upon location) are available at other airports and hotels around the country as well.
Spanish is the official language of Mexico. While many people in the large cities speak some English, it may be difficult for them to conduct detailed business discussions. Non Spanish-speaking visitors to Mexico should consider hiring an interpreter for formal business meetings. It is considered courteous for U.S. businesspeople to speak a few words of Spanish. Many mid and high-level government officials and business executives speak English, and many are U.S.-educated.
A high standard of medical care is available in the principal cities, especially from the main private hospitals and doctors. Many private Mexican doctors have U.S. training and speak English. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains a website with health recommendations for travelers at CDC - Travel.
The Embassy and Consulates maintains a List of Doctors and Hospitals in Mexico. The U.S. Embassy does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms whose names appear on the above lists.
In case of medical emergency, U.S. citizens may call the American Citizen Services sections at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate for help. Please find additional information and contacts for all U.S. consulate locations in Mexico at Mission Mexico - Locations.
Mexico does have health concerns. You should take normal tourist precautions regarding drinking water and eating uncooked items such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and salads. Some individuals react to the pollution and high altitude of various cities, so take things slowly at first. Travelers to Mexico City may require some time to adjust to the altitude (7,400 feet), which can adversely affect blood pressure, digestion, sleep, and energy level. Individuals with the sickle cell trait should consult with the appropriate medical unit or their personal physician before commencing travel. Visitors on short-term assignments carry an added risk because of the lack of time to acclimate. Dehydration, stress, or illnesses compound the basic risks of high altitude. For more information, contact your health provider.
Please note that health insurance is an important consideration. Travelers are responsible for ensuring that they have adequate health coverage while in Mexico.
Mexico has no entry restrictions related to COVID-19 and there is no obligation to carry a COVID-19 test or to quarantine upon arrival. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nonetheless encourages visitors to Mexico to be up to date with COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC has issued a Travel Alert Level 2 “Practice Enhanced Precaution for Mexico” stemming from recent cases of fungal meningitis infections and multidrug-resistant Salmonella outbreaks. Before planning any international travel, please review the CDC’s specific recommendations for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.
Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays
Mexico spans several time zones. From the Yucatán Peninsula to Tijuana, there is a three-hour time difference. Mexico City and Central Mexico are on Central Standard Time (CST). Mexico passed a law in October 2022 regulating time zones in the country. Some cities that used to implement Daylight Saving Time will discontinue the practice in 2023. Going forward, Mexico City, Mérida, Monterrey, Hermosillo, Nogales, and Guadalajara will not observe Daylight Saving Time. Ciudad Juarez, Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, and Tijuana will continue to observe Daylight Savings Time.
Listed below are Mexican holidays for 2023. On these days, banks will not open, and most businesses will be closed. Be aware of the popular “puentes,” which is the local term for when holidays fall near the weekend and create a three-day weekend. As in the United States, holidays falling on a Thursday, Friday, Monday, or Tuesday are rapidly converted into long weekends and are not a good time to schedule business trips. Also review the Business Customs topic above for notes on business hours and mealtimes.
Mexican Holiday Schedule (July 2023-December 2023)
- September 16, Saturday, Mexican Independence Day
- November 2, Thursday, All Souls’ Day (“Day of the Dead”)
- November 20, Monday, Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution
- December 25, Monday, Christmas Day
- January 1, Monday, New Year’s Day
Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings
Please refer to the Customs, Regulations, and Standards topic in the Temporary Entry section of this guide.