Capital City Mexico City
Population: 118,000,000
Currency: Mexican Dollar ($)
Language: Spanish
Calling Code: +52

Viva Mexico! Central America’s largest country attracts huge amounts of tourists every single year, but is still not a massive stop on the backpacker trail – it’s more a place for honeymooning couples and sun-seekers. If you look past the tourist hotspots though, you’ll find a country just waiting to be explored – areas brimming with history, natural scenery and amazing people looking to share their country with you. Of course, there are a few areas you should avoid, but in a country this size, that really shouldn’t be too tough…

Mexico City is a sprawling metropolis, home to 21,000,000 people (making it the third largest city in the world), and as such offers loads of sights and sounds to backpackers willing to scratch underneath the surface. There’s the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Xochimilco to marvel at, Templo Mayor, and the Paseo de la Reforma. Away from the main tourist areas though, you’ll find some really great markets and small restaurants, letting you glimpse the real side of his massive city.

The real beauty of a gap year in Mexico though comes when you get away from Mexico City. Most people will be aware that the coasts of Mexico border some of the most spectacular water in the world, perfect for surfing, SCUBA and snorkelling. Get away from the tourist traps though and head to Costa Maya for some spectacular underwater experiences. Heading inland, you’ll find historic Aztec and Maya remnants – with the Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan being the most visited – and spectacular scenery, such as Copper Canyon and Pico de Orizaba. It’ll take you months to even explore a small fraction of what Mexico has to offer, so don’t plan on leaving too soon!

Working in Mexico

If you are looking for paid work while on a gap year in Mexico, you won’t be in much luck, unless you can find casual employment in hostels or other such locations. Volunteering is a much more popular – and achievable – option though, with various schemes offered throughout the country. Perhaps the most popular type of volunteering is with the children of some of the poorer areas of the country, but there are options in healthcare and conservation as well.

Where Next?

Crossing the border into the US isn’t the easiest thing on earth – expect long queues at the border post – however it is the route most backpackers choose. Once in Texas, you can head in a multitude of directions and start a whole new chapter in your gap year. Alternatively, you can head south and take in the many smaller countries in Central America, such as Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala. And then there’s the Caribbean, with Cuba making for an excellent and slightly less conventional choice…

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