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The Just Student Jobs Country guide for gap year travel in Central America - Mexico

Where to Go - Central America

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Belize | Costa Rica | Cuba | Guatemala | Jamaica | Mexico


Population: 100,349,766

Literacy rate: 89.6%

Life expectancy at birth: male –68.47 yrs, female –74.66 yrs

Infant mortality rate: 26.19 deaths/1,000 live births

Population growth rate: 1.53%

GDP growth rate: 3.7%

GDP per capita: £5,700

Unemployment: 2.5% urban plus considerable underemployment

Inflation: 15%

TI index: 3.3

Climate: varies from tropical to desert

Time: Mexico spans three different time zones:

South, Central and Eastern Mexico: GMT - 6 (Central Standard Time). (GMT - 5 from first Sunday in April to Saturday before last Sunday in October).

Nayarit, Sonora, Sinaloa and Baja California Sur: GMT - 7 (Mountain Time). (GMT - 6 from first Sunday in April to Saturday before last Sunday in October).

Baja California Norte (Pacific Time): GMT - 8 (GMT - 7 from first Sunday in April to Saturday before last Sunday in October).

Daylight saving is operated during summer months; clocks are put forward by one hour.

Electricity: 110 volts AC, 60Hz. US 2-pin (flat) plugs are usual.

Websites: The Mexican tourist office is at

Mexico has perhaps suffered more from stereotyping than any other country in the Americas. While they do seem to feel that stealing a little back off the Yanquis is OK, in general they are a warm-hearted and hospitable people – perhaps a little more so if you are not from the USA. One Mexican president said, “Poor Mexico, so far from heaven and so close to the United States”. This about sums up most Mexican’s attitude to their northern neighbour.

The country varies enormously geographically – there are deserts, tropical areas, temperate forests and high altitude type vegetation. A revealing and interesting bus ride is the one from Acapulco to Mexico City. Going from the seaside, one climbs up slowly through tropical scenery to temperate forests to rise above the tree line only to go down into the depression in which sits Mexico City. Pollution is a grave problem here; thermal inversions hold in the pollutants and cause deadly smogs. Those who can try to leave the capital to find work in other parts – but most people have to stay in the hub of commerce and industry. The Yucatan peninsula is worth a visit to see the ruined temples, but the tours will not be cheap.

Food and drink are excellent, especially if you can find the more authentic eating places.

The political scene is in a state of flux. A certain amount of strife followed the PRI’s defeat last year and efforts to institute some type of land reform have caused the rich to get upset and some rebels in the south to cause a great deal of trouble. It is probably best to feign disinterest in politics while working here. This is the home of machismo – Mexican men are very proud. If you are befriended by a Mexican family, you will become part of that family. After religion, family is the most important thing to Mexicans. There is much poverty outside the cities, and 20% of the wage-earners supply 55% of the economy. Expect stark changes from big cities to countryside. The north, near the US border tends to be rather tacky – the further south, the better it gets.

Entry requirements

No tourist visa required, however if you wish to travel extensively in Mexico then best to get a government tourist card, available at points of entry. Work permits are marginally easier for US and Canadian citizens. The official position is implacable: practically no way. However, some people do work on other’s tax forms, and employers can sometimes arrange this.


Hepatitis A, Polio, Typhoid, Malaria and Yellow Fever.

Tax and Insurance

Get health insurance, as health care is expensive. 15% income tax.

Getting Around

Click here for further information on great value bus travel with Greyhound Bus Lines

Gap Year Programmes

Click here to find gap year programmes and placements in Mexico

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Belize | Costa Rica | Cuba | Guatemala | Jamaica | Mexico

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