Everyone recognizes Mexico as a world-renowned tourist destination. Many don't realize, however, that this country has more than just tropical beaches with vacation resorts. Mexico is home to a wealth of climates, landscapes, sites, foods, cultures, arts, and learning opportunities. There is no better motivation to travel somewhere than knowing you have multiple reasons to do so. So why not make your way to Mexico to volunteer abroad?
10. Barato, Baby!
Forget the beach resorts and five-star hotels. When volunteering in Mexico, barato (cheap) is the way to go. Not only is it easy on the wallet, but it's the best way to get an authentic experience. In many cities, hotel rooms are available for as little as 200 pesos per night (less than $20), and prices in smaller towns can be haggled for less. Museum entrance fees are low or often free. Getting around is easy. Metropolitan public transportation costs just cents, and going city to city or across state lines will never break the bank. In Mexico, visitors can experience rich, cultural history and gorgeous natural settings, eat delicious food, and travel — all on a budget.
When walking through the streets of any town or city, it is very common to be greeted by complete strangers with, “Hola!” or “Buenos días!” A woman you just met at the local market will likely invite you to her house for dinner with her family. A street vendor would gladly take a break from his busy day to have a conversation about where you are from, and why you are volunteering in Mexico. Anywhere you go, everywhere you look, hospitality is there to meet you.
8. ¿Hablas Español?
Mexico may share a border with the United States, but English is not commonplace here. If you are looking to learn Spanish while volunteering abroad in Mexico, it is easy and affordable to pick up the language. The larger cities are filled with Spanish language schools, and some offer college credit. A simple visit guarantees at least a basic learning of the language, thanks to the immersion experience. Don't be scared to practice your new lingo — there is no Spanish snobbery here. Almost anyone will be grateful for your effort and be willing to have a conversation with you.
7. México Moderno.
Mexico's economy is growing at an unprecedented rate and is one of the strongest in Latin America. Many of the larger cities now have an international vibe, with restaurants and stores from countries around the world. The nightlife is always booming with bars and nightclubs of every style. The nation is heralded for its history, but Mexico will surprise you with its lively modernism.
6. El Clima Ideal.
There is a reason tourists from across the globe flock to Mexico year-round — the ideal climate. The temperature stays warm throughout the year, and apart from the occasional coastal hurricane, Mexico does not experience a lot of harsh weather. The temperature tends to be a little higher in the coastal and desert areas and somewhat colder in the mountain regions, but nothing too extreme. Like most tropical countries, Mexico does have a rainy season, which normally reaches its peak in July or August. No matter when you decide to volunteer in Mexico, though, the weather will never be a deterrent.
5. Ciudades Sensacionales.
It seems every big city in Mexico has an atmosphere all its own; and luckily, with the cheap and efficient public transportation by bus, it's not too difficult to travel among them. Among the must-see cities in the country are Guanajuato, Tulum, San Cristobal, Oaxaca City, Guadalajara, Puebla, and Mexico City (Federal District).
4. El Gran Turismo.
Throughout the world, Mexico is known as a tourism hotspot, thanks in grand part to its endless opportunities for sightseeing. The architecture and archaeology left behind by ancient cultures is fascinating. Some of the indigenous languages and customs of these cultures still live on in parts of Mexico. Here is the “bucket list” of amazing ruins to visit while you're volunteering abroad in Mexico:
Tulum, Quintana Roo. The ruins here may not be quite as impressive as other locations, but the breathtaking setting alone— a cliff on a jade beach — makes it worth the trip.
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca. Monte Albán, ruins from the Zapotec culture, lay just outside this picturesque colonial city, also famous for its many churches. These include the Catedral de Oaxaca (located right next to the zócalo — the central city square) and the Santo Domingo de Guzmán (recently renovated into a museum).
Palenque, Chiapas. Archaeology buffs will be amazed by this well-preserved ancient city of the Mayans.
3. Las Playas Bonitas.
The lovely beaches may not be the only reason to travel to Mexico, but they are certainly a main one. In a nation whose entire eastern and western borders touch two different oceans (the Atlantic and Pacific), idyllic beaches abound. The weather on the coasts is typically warm and sunny year-round. Whatever your beach preference — big holiday meccas with grand hotels and resorts; tiny getaway beaches with rustic cabins; big waves perfect for the skilled surfer — it awaits you on the coasts of Mexico.
2. La Comida Maravilla.
Tacos are among the most popular ethnic foods in the world, but the hard-shelled version served in the U.S. — stuffed with ground beef, processed cheese, and iceberg lettuce — does a huge disservice to the real thing. Mexican tacos barely resemble their American cousin: they're soft-shelled and served with quality vegetables, carefully seasoned meats, and with a large variety of spicy salsas. True Mexican cuisine is rustic, healthy, and uses fresh local ingredients and techniques that date back for centuries. Once you have volunteered in Mexico and tasted authentic Mexican food, you'll never be able to look at a platter of Tex-Mex again.
1. ¿Quieres Cultura?
The second you start the day in Mexico, you are welcomed into a world of culture. You will smell the wafting deliciousness of native foods in the air. The musical beats of salsa, the soaring voices of ranchera, the guitars and horns of mariachi will become part of the soundtrack to your day. The brightly colored, intricate traditional clothing will catch your eye. Whatever part of a culture that strikes your interest — whether it's architecture, archaeology, food, music, dance, clothing, indigenous communities, small-town living, modern life — you will find it all in Mexico.