Local Currency in Mexico

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Currency in Mexico

The currency of Mexico is the peso (MXN), divided into 100 centavos. Coins are issued in 5 , 10 (steel), 20, 50 centavo (brass; new 50-centavo coins issued from 2011 on are steel and smaller in size) and 1, 2, 5 (steel ring, brass center), 10, 20, 50, and 100 peso (brass ring, steel or silver center) denominations, but it's extremely rare to find coins valued at more than 10 pesos. Banknotes are produced in 20 (blue), 50 (pink-red), 100 (red), 200 (green), 500 (brown), and 1000 peso (purple and pink for the latest issue, purple for older issues) denominations. The most recent 20- and 50-peso bills are made from polymer plastic, and there are several different series of all banknotes. Ten-peso notes exist, but are very rare.

Do not accept old pesos (issued before 1993): they are practically worthless.

The symbol for pesos is the same as for US dollars, which can be slightly confusing. Prices in dollars (in tourist areas) are labeled "US$" or sport an S with a double stroke. As of June 2011, the exchange rate hovers around $13 MXN to $1 USD. As this exchange rate has typically hovered around $11 MXN to $1 USD, vendors and merchants will often use this rate of exchange. Thus it is currently better to purchase with pesos. US dollars are widely accepted in the far north and in tourist locales elsewhere.

Euros are generally not accepted by merchants, and even banks headquartered in Europe may refuse to accept euros for exchange. On the other hand, most banks and exchange offices ("casas de cambio") will widely accept them.

If you have brought cash in USD or EUR, the best places to change your money are at arrival airport (such as MEX and CUN), where many money exchanges are located already in the arrival hall (where you can also compare some exchange rates and choose the most convenient) and, normally, at airports, the exchange rate is usually fair. Be sure to pass through Customs before looking for foreign exchange as inside customs zone in Cancun the rate is around $9.6 MXN to $1 USD, which is far lower than what the greediest street vendors ask for.

If you would like to wait until later to obtain Mexican currency, try not to change at your hotel, as the rates there tend to be extremely disadvantageous for tourists. Often, you can find money exchanges at strategic places in most touristic destinations and near the hotel (zones). The exchanges rates should not differ drastically from the ones at airport. If you are unfamiliar with Mexican money (bills, coins), try to stick to official foreign exchange booths. In several internationally popular beach destinations like Cancun and Los Cabos, local merchants are accustomed to U.S. dollars and will often accept them as payment (they even have dual-currency cash registers and drawers). However, do bear in mind that the convenience of such “private” money exchange usually comes with a slightly unfavorable exchange rate.

Credit and debit Cards (with Maestro or MC/VISA affiliation) are widely accepted in Mexico. You can use them at ATMs as well as in most department stores, bigger restaurants, gas stations, but be sure that outside cities you always carry sufficient cash in pesos in your pocket, and generally verify the possibility to pay with card before consumption. Smaller (often family run) businesses often accept only cash. Most of the time, an extra 5% when paying with card. is asked. Also, you cannot get lowers price if you haggle unless you pay cash. Often, you can pay half or less by acting like you are leaving.

While many Pemex stations accept credit cards, especially in locations that have heavy tourist traffic, some do not; travelers who intend to pay by credit card should always ask the attendant if the card is accepted before pumping begins.

ATMs are easy to come by. Bank of America customers can avoid ATM fees by using Santander Serfin ATMs. Other banks may have similar policies, check with your respective institution. For example, Banamex bank is owned by Citybank/Citygroup, and Bancomer is owned by BBVA, who is related to Chase in USA. Ask to your bank if they have relation with mexican banks, and the advantages that such ally can provide. Otherwise, do not be surprised to find yourself with a fee for each withdrawal. ATMs in smaller towns can run out of currency; sometimes this is a regular occurrence. Check with the bank (or locals) about the best time to use the ATM and never wait until the last minute to get cash.

Merchants can be picky about the state of your paper money and may scrutinize it and reject anything with rips. Try to keep it in as pristine condition as possible. Reputedly, this is more the case the farther south you go. In any case, you can easily enter a bank with some damaged bill to get it exchanged into another one.

Merchants are often reluctant to make change in smaller towns. Try to avoid paying with overly large denominations; the best customer has exact change. In rural areas, your 'change' may consist of chiclets or other small commodities.

  • Indigenous Art A visit to anywhere in Mexico will give one the opportunity to buy art made in the "old world" manner that reflects the diverse ethnicity of Mexico. Included in these articles would be textiles, wood carvings, paintings and carved masks that are used on sacred dances and burials.
  • Timeshares When visiting the resort cities of Mexico (e.g. Cancun, Puerto Vallarta or similar), it is more than common to be approached on the streets, in bars, in restaurants and anywhere with offers of gifts, free rental cars, free nights, free dinners, free anything that may appeal to you, just for visiting and listening to a presentation to buy a timeshare. Unless you are severely desperate for something to do, you may want to ignore those making the offer and stay away from those free offers. While the properties are very nice, great locations and plenty of amenities, this is not the place to learn about timeshares. Do your homework before even thinking about buying a timeshare, see what the values are in the resale market and understand the rights you are buying as well as the future costs. Collecting on the free offers may be difficult, if not impossible.
  • Automobiles It's certainly worth going over and importing a car back from there, although importing it to the EU/US standards is the hard part. Recommended are the Ford Fusion (like the British Ford Mondeo, but more upmarket) and the Chrysler 200 (the 2.4 model is worth it). Volkswagens can be substantially better-equipped than European or North American counterparts. The Passat sold in Mexico is NOT the same car as in Europe, and is substantially bigger, however, engines are the same as in Europe, except for the 2.5 petrol. 

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