Mexico has a reputation for being crazy cheap, but if you travel to some of the more touristy parts of the country, it can be just as expensive as the US, if not more so.
If you want an affordable vacation in Mexico, look for the Pacific coast or inland rather than Caribbean hotspots like Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. These areas are all popular (and therefore ideal for making friends), but also relatively expensive.
Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita, Guanajuato and Oaxaca can all be visited for about US$500 per month (US$15 per night). A simple but clean and quiet apartment rental in Oaxaca City for a month can be as little as $250 per month.
Learn how to save money on street food (and not get sick) and how to visit Mexico on a budget.
I get sick in Mexico
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Speaking of illness, one of the most common fears of visitors to Mexico is contracting traveler's diarrhea. Fortunately, this is a pretty rare occurrence as long as you take some simple precautions while you're there.
First, you should not drink water from the tap while in Mexico, this includes brushing your teeth and closing your mouth while showering. Grab some cheap water bottles instead and use them for everything. If you get sick in Mexico for any reason, it's most likely because of the water.
Second, street food is king, and you should eat as much of it as possible. You're less likely to get food poisoning while eating from stands than if you opt for the clean-looking restaurants. Street food stalls have high turnover, high levels of hygiene (which you can see when your food is cooked in front of you) and high levels of deliciousness. Check out where the locals eat: you wouldn't be there if the food wasn't safe.
Mosquitoes are not a big problem in Mexico, especially at high altitudes, but you should take precautions on the coast. Dengue can be especially bad during the rainy season. Zika is also starting to appear. Cover up as much as possible, wear insect repellent, and be aware of the risks in the areas you will be visiting.
As always, make sure to use common sense while in the country. Research dangerous neighborhoods to make sure you're not putting yourself in danger. Do not accept drinks from strangers unless you are at the bar and keep track of your drinks at all times. Don't walk around alone at night unless you have a reason to do so. Even simple steps like these can help drastically reduce your risk of injury in Mexico.
I can't travel to Mexico without a passport
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Here's a myth that's technically not true.
You will need a WHTI-compliant identification document to enter Mexico and also to return from Mexico to the U.S. By air, land or sea.
If you are traveling overland, you don't need a passport to return to the U.S. From Mexico, but you will need a similar official document like a PASS card instead. You can no longer use the previously acceptable combination of birth certificate and driver's license or other government-issued photo ID to visit Mexico. So make sure you have a passport or PASS card if you plan to visit.
I have to share the bus with chickens
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If you've ever been to Central America, you've most likely heard of a chicken bus. If you've never heard of a chicken bus, you'll probably be surprised to learn that it's exactly what it sounds like: a bus full of chickens.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on what you're looking for in your travels), chicken buses are very rare in Mexico. You are unlikely to encounter them unless you are truly off the beaten path. In fact, buses in Mexico are among the best in the world.
The buses are safe, comfortable, cheap and clean. And if you ever have to take a night bus, you'll be happy to know that the VIP buses have fully reclining seats. You will find that buses are as luxurious as anywhere in the world.
Can't go to Mexico
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You can travel to Mexico, and also in Mexico!
To drive your car into Mexico, all you need is a temporary vehicle import permit, which you can easily obtain at the border. In some tourist border areas, you don't need that permit or a tourist card. Neither is necessary, for example, if you are going to Puerto Penasco, a tourist destination on the Gulf about 70 miles from the Arizona-Mexico border. You should also purchase Mexican car insurance online before you arrive.
I will have a wreck because people drive like maniacs in Mexico
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The country's laid-back attitude is evident in the casual driving habits of the locals, and Mexican driving behavior is extremely logical. Residents have developed ways to keep traffic moving that would be illegal in the U.S. But make perfect sense once learned. Wear a seat belt. Drive defensively. In short, follow the safety rules as you would at home and learn the Mexican rules of the road. You'll be fine if you keep your cool and move slowly.
Crime is rampant and I have to bribe cops
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Yes, there are drug gangs in border cities.
If you go to Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Cancun, Guadalajara or anywhere else in Mexico, you won't see it. Follow basic travel precautions in Mexico and the same common sense you would use in a U.S. City and you will be perfectly safe.
Read a little about cab safety to avoid getting scammed or worse. And the whole cop bribery thing is gradually disappearing in Mexico. Ask to see the jefe (chief) if you think a cop wants bribes, and chances are it will end on the spot.
I can buy prescription drugs in Mexico
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This is both true and false.
Some prescription drugs in the U.S. Are available over-the-counter in Mexico without having to fill a prescription. You can also easily buy birth control pills and antibiotics at a pharmacy without having to see a doctor (and they are affordable). If in doubt, go to a pharmacy and find out what they have to offer for your ailment. You'll likely have exactly what you need without having to see a doctor.
However, some medications, such as Xanax and Vicodin, require a U.S. Prescription in order for you to purchase them.
As always when traveling, remember to carry prescription medications in a pharmacy-labeled bottle with your name on it to make your life easier when you are searched at customs.
I will love Mexico
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Oh, wait, that's not a myth!
Mexico is a fantastic destination for student travelers and highly recommended. It's cheap to visit, it's safe, it's beautiful, its cultural heritage is profound and the locals are friendly and welcoming. Mexico is amazing and you will love being there.