The peso is the currency of choice for Mexico. While it is not a dollar currency it does use the dollar symbol ($) as the sign used to show an amount of money. This can be confusing when you first enter the country and see dollar signs everywhere, but you will undoubtedly get used to it after a while. The currency is a decimal one and every peso is divided into 100 centavos. Perhaps not surprisingly these are sometimes called cents!
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
There are lots of coins available as legal tender in Mexico but in practice only around half of them are used. These are the 50 cent coin and the $1, $2, $5 and $10 peso coins. You will rarely see the larger peso coins in denominations of $20, $50 and unbelievably $100 too. Also rare are the 5, 10 and 20 cent coins.
There are half a dozen banknotes available but only the largest of these is quite rare – the $1,000 note. You will see the $20, $50, $100, $200 and $500 notes.
From past to present – the history of the Mexican peso
The peso first came into being in 1821 so it is quite an old currency. This marked the year that Mexico gained independence. However the peso was known as the Spanish dollar at this point. You may be more familiar with it being called pieces of eight but they were also called reales. In 1821 the country saw the introduction of banknotes which had denominations of pes. It would be another forty years or so before the centavo coins would be released.
Indeed things would have been a bit confusing because 1866 saw the introduction of peso coins but the reales coins were still around and issued right up until 1897.
The country carried on with the peso right through the majority of the 20th century. On 1st January 1993, following a rough time in the country’s history, marked by inflation, a default on debt and devaluation of the original currency, the new peso was introduced. At this point any amount written in the currency would be shown as N$5 or whichever amount was relevant. The N$ stood for the new peso, but the N was eventually dropped after three years and the people continued calling it the peso.
How to get hold of Mexican pesos
You should get some Mexican pesos prior to travelling to the country if you can. Book these in advance from the best value bureau de change to make sure you can get the best number of pesos for your own currency.
You can also get hold of more pesos when you are in Mexico, although it is best to make sure you contact your card providers before you go there. This will ensure they know you are in the country and won’t attempt to stop the use of your card if a series of payments suddenly pop up in Mexico.
You can use cash machines all over the country and they are quite easy to find. However check the fees and rates you will be charged for withdrawing cash on each card you intend to take with you. You may find one is cheaper to use than another. Many people advise that it is better to take a credit card to Mexico to use for cash withdrawals as well as purchases. This is because it is protected if it should be stolen or lost. Spending on a debit card is limited to the amount of money you have in your account – and if that is a lot you could be in trouble if anyone nabs it.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Mexican peso
The Mexican peso is included on most currency converters online so you should find it easy enough to get the latest exchange rates. One thing you should be aware of is that these rates can differ from the rates you are charged when you get your pesos from a bureau de change. This is why it is wise to shop around to ensure you get the cheapest deal when you get your holiday cash.
It is also worth noting that US dollars are sometimes accepted in Mexico. However they are only accepted in note form and not in coins. This means you should only take notes with you if you have any. When you use a US dollar or two to make payment you also won’t receive any US change in return. Instead it will be returned to you in pesos. It is a good point to note though and might come in useful if you do happen to have US dollars or you decide to get some. When it comes to tipping people for services or paying for small items you are always better off using Mexican pesos whenever you can.
If you are thinking about visiting Mexico and you’d like to find out more about it before you go, it is worth visiting the official embassy website at http://embamex.sre.gob.mx/reinounido/index.php/en.
Travelling safely with Mexican pesos
Mexico is a country that does pose problems and security issues for those visiting the country. Crime is a major issue in Mexico so it is wise to understand and appreciate this if you are considering going there on holiday. While most crime involves people who live in Mexico this is not always the case. It is best not to be blasé about the potential threats that could be present here.
Theft and pickpocketing is common here so do everything you can to minimise the risks. This holds true regardless of whether you are on public transport or in a hire car. Keep all your belongings with you and don’t make yourself any more of a target than you have to. If you do get a hire car or take public transport try and stick to toll roads as they are safer.
You should also be careful of leaving anything else unattended. There have been incidents where drinks have been spiked, leading to robberies taking place and possible injuries being sustained. All manner of crimes can still take place in the big tourist areas too, so don’t assume it is always more dangerous to venture off the beaten track.
The best bet is to focus on finding out as much as you can about staying safe in the region or area you intend to visit prior to booking your trip.
Where to spend your pesos in Mexico – and what to spend them on
Mexico is a fairly large country which borders with North America on its northern edge. Its southern reaches border Guatemala and Belize. Its western coastline faces the Pacific Ocean while the eastern coastline borders the Gulf of Mexico. There is a long strip of land that connects to the mainland and runs parallel to the main part of Mexico in the north eastern part of the country. Between these two sections of land is the Gulf of California.
Mexico does offer some stunning areas to visit if you are interested in seeing them. For example you could go to Acapulco Bay in the city of the same name. This was first made famous by the many movie stars who headed there back in the Fifties.
Another option you have is to visit Playa del Carmen. It has many beaches to offer and it is a popular spot with many tourists looking for the classic beach holiday in Mexico. Cancun is another great option if you love beaches and late night entertainment – it has it all. It might be a little on the cheesy side for those who want to discover the real Mexico but it is still worth a closer look.
But perhaps it is the ancient sites that are the biggest draw for many people. Consider Chichen Itza for example, which can be found to the west of the country in the Yucatan area of Mexico. El Castillo is the most famous sight to be seen here, but it is just one of a number of archaeological constructions you can see at the site. It is no surprise to learn Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to the connections it has with Maya civilisation.
It is not the only such site in the country though. Also well worth a mention (and worth a look too) is Teotihuacan. This is an incredibly large site that boasts two large pyramids – the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. It also has a large avenue called, rather ghoulishly, the Avenue of the Dead. This entire site is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it dates back to the Late Preclassic period. This entire site was a city back in the ancient past, possibly as far as 100 BC. Being able to see it and wander around the compounds, temples and other sights is quite an experience – possibly one of the best the whole of Mexico has to offer.
If you want to see the capital of Mexico you will need to head for Mexico City. While crime rates here are high they have come down in recent years and there are plenty of police officers patrolling the streets. Be sure to see Chapultepec if you do go to the city, because this is one of the most stunning city parks you will ever see anywhere. The park is split into three sections, one of which contains the Chapultepec Zoo. In fact this should give you some idea of how big the park is because it also plays host to a number of museums. It is anything but small and you could spend several days exploring the park alone.
One thing is certain when you visit Mexico – it has plenty to share with you if you like the idea of delving into the past or seeing how the future of Mexico could look. It is advisable to take safety advice before visiting any part of the country but most tourists do manage to have an enjoyable and engaging holiday without experiencing any problems at all. If you are going there soon, make sure you get the most out of your trip too.