Mexico offers great diversity including deserts, volcanoes, cosmopolitan cities and ivory beaches. Tropical jungles in the south hide ancient Mayan ruins. Colonial cities, water sports, Aztec pyramids, markets and fiestas attract tourists. The expanded trade draws business travelers since NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) was signed in 1994. The capital, Mexico City, is the world's largest Spanish-speaking city, with a population of more than 20 million inhabitants.

Tourism is a major industry in Mexico and the country has a developed service sector to cater to visitors. Popular destinations include the resort towns of Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel, Acapulco, Veracruz and Cabo San Lucas. Each offers a variety of resort and hotel accommodations. Fine dining is available at the resorts or in local Mexican restaurants. Nightlife is varied with local discos not becoming crowded until after midnight. Cruise lines, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico, often make stops for day trips in the port towns allowing visitors to tour nearby attractions or shop in local markets.

Vacationers to Mexico increasingly travel beyond the Mexican Resort towns. Destinations such as Mexico City (Mexico DF), the Yucatan Peninsula, Oaxaca, Merida and Guadalajara offer travelers an opportunity to often experience the many sides to Mexican Culture—from historic colonial Mexico, to traditional native Mexico, to the modern, emerging industrial power.

The weather in Mexico reflects the diverse climates. Though Mexico has deserts and jungles, it also has snow-capped mountains. Mexico City is in a valley, which fills with pollution, especially January-March.

The majority of the population is mestizo, with mixed Native American and European blood. Sizable minorities are of pure Spanish or Native American descent. Spanish is the official language, but many people speak English as well, especially in tourist and business areas such as Monterrey.

Mexico is a federal republic, with an elected president and a two-chamber national congress.

The communications infrastructure in Mexico is modern, a highly developed system with extensive microwave links. International direct dialing is available, however, the rural population is poorly served. The condition of roads varies widely, with modern toll roads and badly pot-holed, narrow, crowded, free roads. Rental cars are available.

Internal transportation in Mexico is by air, bus or train. Buses are inexpensive and reliable, but can be crowded and uncomfortable. Trains are slower than buses, but more comfortable in the relatively inexpensive first-class cars. Limited "rapido" train service is often twice as fast as normal train service. Internal air transportation is much less expensive than in many other countries.

The economy is a mixture of modern and outmoded industry and agriculture. State-owned enterprises are being privatized, with competition coming to railroads, telecommunications, electricity and airports. Income distribution is quite unequal, with large numbers of poverty-stricken peasants, especially in the south.

Mexico offers a wide variety of accommodations, from the most luxurious resorts and hotels to more modest such as guesthouses, also known as casas de huespedes.

Crime rates are high throughout Mexico, and foreigners are at risk for becoming victims of both property theft and violent personal crime, especially at night and in urban areas. Tourists and business travelers should take precautions.





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