Whether visiting Mexico as a tourist or living here for a long time, you may need to exchange foreign currency and get cash pesos for everyday expenses. Let's look at the main things you should know about this currency.
About the Mexican peso
The peso is the official currency of Mexico, denoted by the $ sign and has the ISO code "MXN" (formerly "MXP"). One peso is equivalent to 100 centavos.
Modern currencies that use the "peso" share a common origin with the Spanish dollar of the Catholic monarchs of the 15th-19th centuries. This is why the peso uses the same symbol as the dollar.
Peso, in Spanish, literally means "weight." The term was initially used to refer to the weight of gold or silver. The gold content of the peso has changed over time. In 1821, the coin contained 2.48 grams of gold, but by 1873, it contained only 1.92 grams of gold. These days, there is no gold or silver in circulating MXNs.
As for banknotes, the following denominations are in circulation:
- 20 MXN
- 50 MXN
- 100 MXN
- 200 MXN
- 500 MXN
- 1000 MXN
Banknotes of 20 and 50 pesos are made of polymer paper. The others are made of cotton-based material.
Sometimes, the government issues commemorative anniversary banknotes. For example, in 2019, a commemorative series of 200-peso notes was issued to celebrate 25 years of autonomy of Mexico's central bank from the federal government.
How to get peso cash in Mexico
There are several different ways to get Mexican pesos. The most common are:
- Online exchangers. You can use BestChange to find exchangers with offices in Mexico to apply for an exchange at a favourable rate.
- You can exchange in your home country before you leave through banks. Many major banking institutions offer this service.
- You can buy MXN at a local currency exchange upon arrival. Currency kiosks are located at airports and other tourist places in major cities. However, the exchange rate will be unfavourable — kiosks charge a substantial commission in their favour.
- If you have a Mexican card or account, it is convenient to withdraw money from an ATM. Tariffs, in this case, will be the most favourable.
It is recommended to always carry a small amount of cash; this money can be helpful for small expenses, such as souvenirs, taxis or tips.
Other nuances: change, tips, counterfeit notes
When visiting Mexico for the first time, many people are surprised at how difficult it is to find a shop that has change for change from extensive notes. Banknotes of 200 or more pesos can cause trouble, but 10-peso coins are accepted with flying colours. If the vendor doesn't have a change, he may ask you to wait until he finds a change.
Counterfeit cash is rare in Mexico. However, to avoid problems, you should inspect notes carefully and ensure all security marks are in place and the colours are not distorted. In addition, each note has a unique serial number.
Tips in Mexico can be given in cash pesos and American dollars, although not all restaurants offer this option. The standard tip is 10-15% of the cheque amount.