You have several options – here’s how, when and where.
Many travelers feel that they should exchange their money prior to leaving the country. It can be a 2 day process to do this because US banks don’t typically have pesos on hand. The bank will charge you an exchange rate that is more like a service fee. Then they will purchase the pesos and sell them to you for a higher rate (your actual exchange rate). Don’t bother yourself, concentrate on what to pack right now.
Why do you need pesos when you land at the airport? You can use Uber to catch a ride anywhere you want to go and for often half the cost of a taxi, provided you have cell service to make the call.
Okay, so you took my advice and now you’re here. With no pesos.
Skip the ‘Exchange’ places in the airport and in town. You will pay top dollar. Instead, go to a BANK with an ATM and withdraw your money using your debit card. Any bank will do but please, I beg you, do not use one of those ATM machines on the street, they are vulnerable to skimmers stealing your info.
The bank is going to charge you a service fee, just like back home. My US bank credits any transaction fees back to me, so if you plan to come often, find a bank that does the same. While we’re on the subject of your bank, don’t forget to alert them that you will be in Mexico – you don’t want to work through that mess the first day of vacation. The bank ATM is also going to ask you to accept the conversion rate. Typically, this is 1 peso per dollar. So, for example, if you Google ‘dollar exchange rate’, you’ll find that it’s about 19 pesos. The bank is going to exchange it for you for 18 pesos, costing you about 1 peso (about 5 cents).
The amount you can take out per day depends on your bank. I find most banks allow $8000 pesos per day. If your room has a safe, take out the max and avoid the lines at the bank. Also, they don’t restock the ATM machines over the weekend, so if you wait until Sunday to take out money, you may find yourself walking a distance to find a bank with money.
Many restaurants will take your credit card and they usually offer an economical exchange rate. Many more take cash only, or ‘solo effectivo’, so expect to pay many meals and drinks in cash.
Where do you get the best exchange?
Mexican pesos are one of the few currencies where the smallest coins and bills are the lowest value. The larger the coin or bill, the more it’s worth.