Travel

Everything You Need to Know About Traveling to Mexico Right Now

Don't pack that flamingo floaty just yet.

When Mexico announced it was reopening to tourists on June 1, just in time for the summer season, cooped-up beach-lovers across the US rejoiced. 

But as Mexico’s hotels and resorts began the earliest stages of reopening, it was immediately clear we wouldn't be reliving our dream spring beak vacation anytime soon. Tales of eerily quiet beaches and vacant swim-up bar stools made their way back across the border. And for the most part, the stories are true.

Mexico is one of nine countries that are fully open to Americans—keeping company with the likes of Serbia, Albania, and North Macedonia. You'd forgive Mexico for being anxious to get the wheels turning. According to The Washington Post, tourism makes up 17% of its economy, and in some areas, that number is much higher. An incredible 80% of Los Cabos’ tourism, for example, comes from the US, the Los Cabos Tourism Board told us. As most Americans stay home, COVID-19 has struck a massive economic blow to this country. 

Mexico is currently accepting visitors without restrictions—there is no quarantine requirement. But what exactly is open, and what does a trip to Mexico look like right now? Here’s everything you need to know if you’re considering a visit.  

When can Americans travel to Mexico?

Right now. There are no restrictions for Americans traveling to Mexico, and no required period of quarantine. Flights have been gradually increasing since June, and while they're still somewhat limited for certain destinations, it is much easier to fly into Mexico now than it was even earlier this summer. That Baja road trip may have to wait, however—land border crossings are closed to non-essential travel until October 21.

Where are the safest places to visit during the pandemic?

While you can technically travel anywhere you want in the country, now is not the best time to venture off the tourist path. Mexico has invested a considerable amount of money, training, and effort in its major tourist destinations and metropolitan cities, ensuring hotels and restaurants have the resources to provide a sterile, safe experience for tourists. That small mountain village in Oaxaca? Less so. So while we're usually all about going off the beaten path, stick to the touristy places if you go.

What are the airports in Mexico like right now?

Anyone who has ever flown into Cancun will recall the infamously long, chaotic immigration line. That’s no longer an issue: Entering Mexico is faster than it ever has been, and probably ever will be, as limited flights have cut back the foot traffic in Mexico’s major international airports. Staff is thoroughly masked, hand sanitizers are abundant, acrylic barriers have been thrown up practically everywhere, and temperature screenings are positioned throughout. 

What's open in Mexico? Can I go to bars?

It depends on where you go, as individual states are handling their own reopening procedures. Most have adopted a Traffic Light reopening system, where Red signifies fully closed and Green means fully open. 

The state of Quintana Roo (home to beach hotspots like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum) recently transitioned to its Yellow phase. Hotels are operating at 60% capacity, as are tourist attractions, archaeological sites, and restaurants. Beaches are open only to resort guests, while bars and clubs are closed.

On the west coast, Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco is taking a more liberal approach. While not in the Green phase yet, beaches are fully open to both resort guests and the public. Hotels are open at 50% capacity, and major attractions have reopened with restrictions. Spas and gyms have reopened as well. And unlike Quintana Roo, bars and clubs are back to normal. 

In Baja California Sur, where you’ll find Los Cabos, the situation is much more conservative. They recently entered Phase 2 of their five-phase reopening strategy, which keeps hotel occupancy low at 40%. The majority of storefronts remain shuttered, but indoor/outdoor dining is open with restrictions.

You can find updates for the reopening phases of all of Mexico’s destinations here.

What is the situation like in Mexico City?

Mexico City is known for its colorful chaos—bustling parks, frenetic nightlife, and obscene amounts of traffic. Mexico City today, though, is quite different. Unlike destinations built with tourism in mind, Mexico City is a working, living, fast-paced metropolis. It currently has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country, and locals are taking the pandemic very seriously.

Generally speaking, masks are ubiquitous, the streets are less crowded, and even the once-packed Metro leaves visitors room to breathe. Most nightlife spots remain closed, though select bars are reopening with strict regulations in place: Hours are limited, food must be served, masks are required, and temperatures are checked. Museums are open by appointment. In the main square of the city, the Zocalo, expect temperature screenings before entering any historic buildings.

MORE:  This writer flew through 4 countries at the height of the pandemic

What safety precautions are resorts and hotels taking? 

The majority of hotels and resorts across Mexico have launched hyper-vigilant COVID safety programs that include temperature checks for staff, sanitized uniforms, online check-ins, floor markers to ensure social distancing, luggage sanitization upon arrival, and personal hygiene kits in all guest rooms.

Many resorts have switched to digital room keys and QR-code menus in restaurants to help minimize contact. Across the board, hotel guests can expect much lower occupancy, far less interaction with staff and guests, and highly monitored sanitary conditions, whether you're at a sprawling all-inclusive chain or a boho-chic boutique.

Are masks required in Mexico?

The vast majority of hotels and resorts across Mexico are requiring staff to wear masks at all times. Resorts suggest (and many mandate) that guests also wear masks in public, indoor spaces. But not every resort strictly enforces this policy, and unfortunately many travelers are taking advantage of the lax rules.

Meanwhile, large cities like Mexico City and Oaxaca enforce mask-wearing in public spaces. You'll need to mask up to enter shops, restaurants, and museums. 

Unfortunately, coronavirus cases have risen in Mexico since the country reopened in June. While your tourism dollars are doing a world of good right now, being careless about social distancing guidelines and not wearing a mask puts the country at risk of a second lockdown, which would be devastating to the economy. 

So if you do choose to travel to Mexico, wearing a mask is the most effective way to reduce the spread of coronavirus. It keeps you safe, as well as the local workforce who shows up every day to ensure you have a great trip.

OK, do I need to quarantine if I go to Mexico?

Nope. 

What about when I get back?

You do not “need” to quarantine when you return, but it would probably be the right thing to do. That said, you don't need to quarantine at all if you’d rather just wait it out and stay in the States until everything is safe.

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Meagan Drillinger’s writing has appeared in Lonely Planet, Travel + Leisure, InsideHook, Men's Health, and more. She is a long-time Thrillist contributor and the Mexico reporter for Travel Weekly magazine.
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