A Gringo’s Guide to NOT Looking Like a Tourist in Mexico

Photo Credit: in pulverem reverteris

We’ve all seen him – the pink-skinned gringo nearly passed out on a beach chair ordering daiquiri after daiquiri in a tone that embarrasses everyone. It’s more of a yell, than a “May I please,” – a tone he’d never use when talking to a server back in Minnesota.

He joins in on tequila volleyball, tequila bingo and tequila shuffleboard until he’s fully fried to a crisp – in more ways than one.

Nobody wants to be the rude gringo who sticks out like a sore thumb in Mexico, and many vacationers don’t even know they’re doing it. Follow these few simple steps to losing your silly gringo traits and enjoy an overall better experience in Mexico. We’ll all be thankful you did.

Wear Sunscreen

Don’t be a macho man. Put on some Coppertone Baby SPF 50 and save yourself a few days of pain and constant complaining. I don’t care what your heritage is, if you’re hailing from the snowy north in December, you’re not “naturally tan.”

Learn About Tips

Don’t think that because you’re in a third-world country you can tip peanuts and say things like, “They’ll appreciate anything.” Mexicans working at resorts make roughly $1 (or less) per hour, so why would you tip them less than someone who makes much more per hour at home? Tip 20 percent and use cash whenever possible.

There are many instances in Mexico where a tip is expected, and it wouldn’t normally be in the U.S. Always tip the lady or man who cleans your room, the person who does your laundry, the PeMex attendant who pumps your gas, the person who helps you park your vehicle and anyone who carries anything for you (even if you wanted to carry it yourself). These are less than a 20 percent tip, but more like an extra 20 pesos to say “Thank you.”

Don’t Do This

Photo Credit: Tim Ellis
Photo Credit: Tim Ellis

If you want to go on a boat ride. Ask a trustworthy local or even your hotel concierge to set you up on a boat that is affordable and spacious. Don’t get roped into “whale watching tours,” when you can spend a whole day fishing with a local fisherman who will also take you to the hottest whale watching spots for the same price.

Always Barter


The starting price on any item in Mexico is roughly three times what the vendor really wants to make. If you see a blanket on the beach you love, and the vendor starts his price at 600 pesos, shoot for spending 200 or 250 pesos.

One of the best tactics I’ve found, is determining a price in my head that I’m willing to spend on a certain product. If the vendor won’t go down to the price you want, walk away. He’ll come chasing after, and you’ll have a brand new, hand knit blanket from Mexico for exactly the price you wanted to pay.

Don’t forget to barter on just about EVERYTHING. Cab rides, boat rides, tours, street food (if a price isn’t already named on a sign), coconuts, accommodations and rental cars. You name it, and you can probably walk away with it for at least half the asking price.

Don’t Be in a Hurry

If you haven’t heard of “Mexican Time,” you will on your first trip to Mexico. Life moves slower here, and that’s what’s so great about it. This isn’t New York City, and you’re not on your way to an important meeting, so don’t get angry if the cab is late.

In fact, don’t get angry at all. Raising your voice over something as trivial as time is unnatural in Mexico, and it certainly won’t get you anywhere. If you’re done with your meal, kindly ask for “La Cuenta,” and the waiter will bring you your check. Otherwise, the staff expects you want to sit and enjoy your time at the table and won’t rush you away  – even if there’s a line out the door.

Cover the Wristband


If you find yourself in some kind of resort that tries to make you their prisoner by tagging your wrist with one of those hideous wristbands. Hide it.

Of course, you’ll need to wear the bracelet for pool access, drinks and meals at your hotel, but when you go into town, flip that bracelet inside out, cover it with a long sleeve or disguise it with other bracelets. Not only do you stick out like a sore thumb, but you may be harassed and charged more than your non-bracelet wearing counterparts.

Speak Spanish and Smile Often

Even if you don’t know any Spanish, a little “Hola” or “Gracias” can go a long way. The locals appreciate when you try to speak their language instead of assuming that they know yours. After all, you’re in Mexico.

Couple your small Spanish vocabulary with a big smile and some body language, and you’ll be able to communicate just about anything.

Most importantly, when on vacation in Mexico, enjoy every moment in this beautiful country and don’t sweat the small stuff.


Author: Courtney McCaffrey

I'm an adventure travel writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C., Mexico and around the world. This site is named after my grandma’s talk radio show “Bits of Life,” which allowed her to talk about whatever the heck she wanted to talk about, and people loved it.

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