Currency exchange, medicine and travel information update for Mexico

Sunset over a plane wingHaving just arrived back from an assignment in Mexico City, there are some recent changes in currency exchange, prescription medicines, traffic and travelling around that I thought might be useful to share.

Currency Exchange

I was surprised when I checked with my hotel reception and was told that they were no longer able to change US dollars.

As of a couple of weeks ago, hotels are unable to exchange most currencies. Instead you need to visit an established money changer.

I expect this is all an effort by the government to track the movement of money in and out of the country.

Needless to say, hotel staff are still more than happy to accept US Dollars for tips.

Prescription Medicines

For many years Mexico has been known as a place to easily get medicines without a prescription, but this has now changed.

Talking with a local doctor, new rules were introduced a couple of weeks ago making prescriptions required for several medicines, including antibiotics.

Apparently due to the lack of regulation in past years, Mexicans have been self prescribing antibiotics for even the simplest illness, and now there is a big problem with antibiotic resistance. The government has stepped in and introduced the new rules regarding medicine distribution.

I required some antibiotics for an eye infection during my stay. My hotel had a doctor on call who visited me and provided a prescription for $100US. I am told some pharmacies also have a doctor on call, so if you visit the pharmacy without a prescription, they can access a doctor who can provide the prescription, and at a much cheaper price.

Mexico City Traffic

Mexico City traffic is worse than I every remember, so allow lots of time if you are moving around the city.

Every day we needed to allow 45 minutes to travel 3 miles from our hotel in the Polanco area.

My trip from the hotel to the airport used to take 30-45 minutes many years ago, but this time it took 2 hours in heavy afternoon traffic.

Rugged cases targets for kidnapping

Beware of carrying rugged cases (e.g pelican cases) when travelling in Mexico.

Mexican drug cartels are now targeting people for kidnapping if they are travelling with pelican type ruggedized cases.

Typically these type of cases are used to carry and protect expensive items such as camera or computer equipment, and they are also often used by law enforcement to carry equipment. The drug cartels have picked up on this, and issued a standing kidnap order for anyone using these cases.

You should be OK in Mexico City, but if you are travelling in cartel controlled areas, I would recommend disguising your pelican cases, or putting them inside another bag to protect your camera or computer equipment.

Summary

Mexico is still a great place to visit, and I hope this information on recent travel changes has been helpful.

Submit additional travel tips for Mexico in the comments section below.

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