Mexico - Country Commercial Guide
Mexico- Business Travel and Etiquette

Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel.

Last published date: 2021-09-02

Business Customs

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 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. and for people to work until 8 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 a.m. and 9 a.m. before going to work, a somewhat heavier almuerzo around 10:30 or 11:30 a.m., a heavy lunch called comida generally after 2 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 p.m. and 4 p.m. unless you intend for it to be over lunch.

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 or 3 p.m. Many restaurants do not open for lunch before 1:30 p.m. and most restaurants will 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 areas and tourist areas dollars are sometimes accepted).

Travel Advisory

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 visit the Department of State’s 

Travel Warning website. 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.

Visa Requirements

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. This form may be obtained with validity up to four years.

For definitive immigration regulations from the Mexican Government, please review the information on immigration law and regulations.

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 of 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. This form is normally distributed on all arriving aircraft. The bottom portion of this form will be torn off and handed back to you to become your Visitor Card (Forma Migratoria Múltiple or FMM), which you should keep in your passport.

IMPORTANT NOTE: All foreign visitors should keep their FMM bearing the official entry stamp as it must be surrendered upon departure from the country. It is extremely important to keep this form in a safe location. Upon exiting the country at a Mexican Immigration (Instituto Nacional de México or INM) departure check point, U.S. citizens are required to turn in this form. We are aware of cases where U.S. citizens without their FMM have been required to change their flight (at personal expense), file a police report with local authorities regarding the missing document, and visit an INM office to pay a fine and obtain a valid exit visa. In other cases, travelers have been able to continue their journey after paying a fine. If you enter Mexico by land and expect to depart by air or land, be sure to receive the FMM when entering Mexico, either at the initial border entry or at the interior checkpoint 21 km past the border. While it is always provided at Mexican international airports as part of immigration procedures, it is not always automatically given at land crossing. If you then try to return to the United States by air without the card you can be subject to a fine of up to USD 400, or you may be detained and deported if stopped in the interior of the country.

For further information please visit the Mexican Secretariat of Tourism website.

U.S. companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should ensure the Mexican or third-country national applies for their U.S. visa well in advance. 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 to 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 made 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 site.

Those who cross the U.S. land border regularly, but who 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.

Currency

Mexico’s currency is the Mexican peso. In the first half of 2021, the average exchange rate was 20.20 pesos to the U.S. dollar. 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 when at ATM machines.

Telecommunications/Electronics

Telephone Services

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, Telcel, Movistar, and AT&T 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.

Internet Services

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 at a minimum, 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 cafés offer free Wi-Fi. Mexico still has many internet cafés that offer internet access for a fee.

Electricity

Mexico uses the same voltage (120v) and the same size wall plugs as the United States.

Transportation

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 Mexico Travel Advisory, as well as the advisory’s Travel and Transportation section.

Airport Arrivals

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 an 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. Alternatively, travelers can use the Uber app for an airport pickup and to move around Guadalajara. 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.

Language

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.

Health

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 (mx.usembassy.gov/medical-practitioners/). 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 ft.), 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 acclimatize. 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.

All travelers should be aware that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Travel Alert Level 2 “Practice Enhanced Precaution for Mexico.” Comprehensive information regarding Zika and risks to travelers is posted on the CDC website at CDC - Zika.

The CDC has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for Mexico due to COVID-19, indicating a high level of COVID-19 in the country. Your risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorized vaccine. Before planning any international travel, please review the CDC’s specific recommendations for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers. Visit the U.S. Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in Mexico.

Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays

Mexico spans several time zones, as does the United States. 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 has Daylight Savings time, though there is a difference of a few weeks from when it changes in the United States, except for certain border regions.

Listed below are Mexican holidays for 2021. 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. 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 meal times.

Mexican Holiday Schedule (July 2021-December 2021)

2021

  • September 16, Thursday, Mexican Independence Day
  • November 2, Tuesday, All Souls’ Day
  • November 15, Monday, Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution
  • December 24 & 25, Friday and Saturday, Christmas Day
  • December 31, Friday, 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.