Visitors love Mexico for the culture, beaches, and activities. But your first step is getting there. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for a Mexican getaway.

By Joan Drammeh
November 16, 2007
Michael Hanson

Passports: New federal regulations require all U.S. citizens to have passports for air travel to and from Mexico. Cruise passengers and travelers crossing by land will also need passports beginning January 31, 2008. The new regulations have prompted a passport rush. Apply now, and avoid the disappointment and expense of a canceled trip.

Traveling by Car: Mexico strictly regulates visitors entering the country by car. Before driving across the border, you must have the vehicle's state registration certificate certifying legal ownership or the leasing contract. If the vehicle is leased or rented, it must be in the name of the driver. If the vehicle belongs to a company, proper documentation is necessary to show you work for the company.

Once across the border, avoid driving at night. Roaming livestock can appear at any time. Travel tip: The country is crisscrossed by toll roads, and it's worth the expense to use them for the convenience and safer driving conditions.

Finally, U.S. automobile insurance is not valid in Mexico, so you'll have to purchase a separate policy covering the length of your stay. If you're in an accident, you will be taken into police custody until it can be determined who is liable.

Health: All visitors to Mexico should have routine vaccinations. And you'll want to stock up on basic medicines, such as antidiarrheals, insecticides, and sunscreen.

Review your health insurance policy before the trip to see if it covers you outside the United States.

Food and Water: As a rule of thumb, it's best to drink only bottled water, although hotels in resort areas often have water purification systems. Beware of ice cubes that may have been made with tap water.

Security: Like anywhere else, it makes sense to use hotel safes, avoid wearing obviously expensive jewelry or designer clothing, and carry only the cash or credit cards needed on each outing.

Water Safety: Remember common sense. You can still get hurt, even on vacation. Use caution when participating in activities such as parasailing, using personal watercraft, snorkeling, and diving.

Do not use pools or beaches that do not have lifeguards. Some Mexican beaches, including those in Cancun, have warning signs about undertow: Take them seriously.