Mexico’s current tourism situation, in the words of a local resident

Is Mexico open for tourism? I’ve been living here in the past 2 years and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly about how we handled COVID here. In this article, you will know my first-hand insights as a local.

Reader Mail: Hello Trisha! I found your blog through your article about Sayulita. Thank you for the information! I am from California and our state has banned non-essential travel here. I was wondering if Mexico is part of that agreement. Is Mexico open for Americans? What is the current situation there? I know you have years of experience living in Mexico so I just wanted to reach out to a local. Thank you for your help! By the way, I am half Filipina but I grew up in the US. Happy to see fellow Filipinas as you thrive in other countries! You go, girl!
– Jeanine Delarosa, USA

Dear Jeanine,

Thank you so much for reaching out. Wow, I hope more Filipinos come to Mexico! I haven’t met a lot and those I’ve met are through the blog. I have a few readers who already visited my home in Sayulita!

I already received lots of questions if Mexico is open and I’m finally doing a post. If you ever find yourself traveling to Mexico, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me via Instagram, @psimonmyway. I would love to take you around!

Anyway, I hope you will find this post useful and if there’s anything I forgot to include, just let me know and I will edit this article!

Xx,
Trisha

For those of you who are new to this blog, I would like to tell you about my background in Mexico travel. I’ve been living here for a while and when COVID hit, I’ve seen how the good, the bad, and the ugly on how this country handled COVID.

Thankfully, I do not live in big cities like Mexico City. Today, the capital has the most number of confirmed COVID cases in the country, which is so normal because this is the flying hub in the country. I had short layovers in Mexico City for the last 6 months and they’re still on lockdown. Everything is very strict and there are curfews for restaurants.

I am not encouraging you to travel to Mexico. I am only writing this article out of courtesy to the readers of this blog. I always make sure to deliver honest and transparent content so if you plan to travel to Mexico, travel at your own risk.

You may feel very healthy right now but remember that the locals who work here do not have the luxury to miss a week’s (even just a day) work. Most Mexicans here are breadwinners to their families so if you infect another, you are affecting a whole family’s livelihood.

Top 10 areas in Mexico with most COVID cases

As of January 7, 2021, Mexico has 1,466,490 confirmed cases and 128,822 deaths according to the World Health Organization’s real-time stats. I also checked the top countries with the most COVID cases in the world and Mexico is not even in the top 10. This is strange because my family and friends in the Philippines are always telling me that Mexico is all over the news as a COVID hotspot.

In WHO’s data, these are the global results in order: United States of America (20,870,913), India (10,395,278), Brazil (7,810,400), Russia (3,332,142), The United Kingdom (2,836,805), France (2,660,740), Italy (2,201,945), Spain (1,982,543), Germany (1,835,038), and Colombia (1,702,966).

By looking at these numbers, it seems like the USA and Europe are still the ones struggling. Of course, I am not saying Mexico is very safe in terms of COVID. As travelers, I believe we should be mindful that all countries are at high risk right now.

Again, I am not a COVID expert and I only want to talk about Mexico. You still should see the stats on credible websites like WHO. I am just here to tell you what’s the current COVID situation in Mexico and how we are living here normally despite that.

Here are the main areas in Mexico with the most COVID cases.

AREA
CONFIRMED NUMBER OF CASES
Mexico City
348,421
Baja California Sur
18,505
Tabasco
45,644
Sonora
53,468
Coahuila
50,976
Nuevo León
86,186
Querétaro
33,920
San Luis Potosí
40,823
Guanajuato
85,781
Durango
25,705

I live in Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, about 30 minutes from Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. I am literally in the border of both states! As of today, January 7, 2021, the state of Nayarit has 8,084 confirmed cases and 684 deaths. We are not in the top 10 high-risk states so tourism is still very normal here.

The airport that serves us (Puerto Vallarta International Airport) is operating. They briefly closed for a month in June but everything was back to normal on July 4, 2020. Since then, they’ve never closed. I was able to fly smoothly to Oaxaca City, Bacalar, Baja California Sur, and Guadalajara, where I recently did some small trips for work.

Is Mexico open? What’s the current situation?

Though I have been to Baja California Sur for the last three months which is number two with the most COVID cases in Mexico, I still found it very easy to travel within Mexico. It’s a sad view but if you go to the airport, everything is normal except for the temperature checks and other COVID precautions that Mexican airports are practicing.

I am sure you have your own preference for places to visit in Mexico but the best thing to do is to investigate the current situation by calling hotels and locals. In my case, I always contact locals on Couchsurfing.

As for the day-to-day life here in Puerto Vallarta, we still can go to restaurants. In my ex-home in Sayulita, they don’t even practice wearing masks. The reason why my area (Nayarit) has low COVID cases is that we live a very outdoorsy lifestyle here.

There is always space for everyone. You will never find yourself in an enclosed area. It’s the same case with Mexican beach towns like Puerto Escondido, Mazunte, and Loreto.

See also: The story of how I ended up moving to Sayulita, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta International Airport has been open since July 4, 2020. They haven’t closed since then.

Like the USA, Mexico’s COVID rules are also dependent on the state. We do not have a centralized lockdown rule here. But many states are very mindful about their risk colors (red, orange, yellow) so tourism boards I worked with are trying to be a low-risk state.

What’s confusing about this is that the rules can change. For example, last dia de muertos (Day of the Dead from October 29 – November 2), Puerto Vallarta announced that they will close the city for 2 weeks without prior notice. The announcement was on the day itself.

The same goes for Sayulita. I remember being at a party by the beach and the cops just came to shut down the party. There are no fixed rules. I feel like the state police just come whenever they want to shut down whatever they feel like shutting down. It’s really hard to move like this, especially if they are announcing changes at the last minute.

Mexicans love to party and always tend to do big gatherings (remember, Mexicans have big and extended families). The last-minute changes on COVID rules/lockdown do not change frequently but I see this pattern in major holidays, for example, the Mexican Independence Day every September 15th.

As soon as everyone is all set for the parties, the government decides to shut down everything however they like. Sometimes, it takes just a few days until the holiday dies down. In some cases, they can last up to two weeks, then back to normal again.

Another thing that the Mexican government is fond of doing is the ley seca (liquor ban but in English, it’s literally translated as dry law). I’m sure you all know how Mexicans can drink a lot and alcohol is part of their daily lives so curfews and prohibition of the sale of alcohol here are on and off, whenever they see fit.

For example, there was a hurricane in Yucatan last October. The Yucatan government responded with ley seca. Last May in Nayarit, when the lockdown started, ley seca. Mexican Independence Day, ley seca. It seems to be the answer to everything here when they want to control the Mexican people.

This is the concern of most travelers visiting Mexico. What if you get stuck in this country?

I honestly don’t think Mexico will close anytime soon. I believe it will remain open. Throughout the whole pandemic in 2020, we only did a lockdown once and only closed the airport once. I don’t even remember that Mexico closed its borders to the US and Canada.

Mexico is a country that thrives a lot in tourism and it’s really surprising that my area in Nayarit, which is a tourist area has low cases despite the number of Americans coming here.

COVID-19 travel restrictions in Mexico

There are no restrictions on travel to Mexico. Everyone can come. When you arrive at any major Mexican airport, you will just be asked to submit a digital COVID questionnaire declaring you do not have COVID. I find this very strange because you can just easily lie and say you feel good at the airport.

Mexico does not require a negative COVID test when you enter the country but I always encourage readers of this blog to get a test upon arrival in Mexico. It’s not for free but you can always get it in major hospitals in Mexico. Where I live, the COVID testing costs are $3,690 MXN ($185 USD) for PCR and $900 MXN ($45 USD) for the antibodies test. In my experience, it was cheaper when I had it in Oaxaca and Cancun. Again, these prices depend on the state.

You might also like: A reflection on my great big move to Mexico
is mexico open

My most recent trip in Los Ayala, Nayarit, Mexico (December 2020)

Note that the border of the US and Mexico has banned non-essential travel until January 21, 2021. We’ll see how this pans out for the next few days but I want to be honest with you – we have lots of American visitors here. Another reason why Americans continue to come here is that airlines have crazy cheap flight prices to go to Mexico.

Honestly, in my experience when Puerto Vallarta airport closed, people were forced to just stay at home. Our behavior as travelers depends on the tourism industry, for example, airlines. In our heads, if the airlines offer flights to Mexico, then it’s safe to travel to Mexico. Or anywhere in the world for that matter.

If you’re wondering why your American friends are vacationing in Cabo and Cancun right now, it’s because Mexico is open for tourism. It has been since July 2020 and that never changed. I do hope that this year 2021, Mexico will have stricter regulations about COVID or at least have wearing masks mandatory especially in smaller towns where there are more vulnerable locals.

Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak, and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. In no particular order, her favorite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Tel Aviv.

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P.S. I'm On My Way is a blog by Trisha Velarmino. She didn't
quit her job to travel the world. She made a job out of traveling and you can do it, too.

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