Teotihuacan Pyramids A short internship stint over the summer provided me with the opportunity to explore a new country and culture: Mexico. Stories that do the rounds on mainstream media and the way the country is perceived by some people in the US had me nervous as I boarded my flight from New Jersey to Mexico City. I had quite a laugh with the lady checking me in at the airport when she pointed out that I was going south beyond the wall on a green passport, and whether Trump would let me back in. I retorted by saying that I was friends with Trump and that should not be an issue. The remark however stuck to my head, as I wondered what the new country would have in store for me, and whether it would be safe for a non-Spanish speaking Pakistani to venture out and roam around freely. My fears were soon put to rest as I landed in Mexico and spent the subsequent two months working and exploring the new country. In a bid to outline why Pakistanis should visit Mexico and include it in their bucket list of countries to go to, I have decided to focus on some aspects: MEXICAN PEOPLE ARE ONE OF THE FRIENDLIEST — even though Mexicans might not normally speak fluent English, they are quick to become friends with. The people are generally pleasant and recent acquaintances are not hesitant to host you at their houses. The Mexican hospitality is similar to South Asian culture, in terms of lavishness and open heartedness of the hosts. The host would present you with a wide variety of home cooked food, and would not let the guest do anything other than to eat. In the American culture, on the contrary, it is not uncommon for guests to bring a dish of their own, and do their own dishes after they are done eating. Furthermore, people with modes of transport are willing to take acquaintances around for sightseeing and basic grocery and are great guides. I was surprised when strangers insisted to pay for our tickets at the subway station, when they saw us struggle with comprehending Spanish. Locals we met during many of our numerous hikes would offer us their produce, and contend that we not pay for anything. THE MANGOS ARE AWESOME — Having not experienced the Pakistani chaunsa for over a year, I was pleasantly surprised by the aroma, taste and texture of the Mexican mango. It was the perfect yellow with a rich aroma, something that is extremely rare up north in Canada and the US. The taste was also comparable to the Pakistani mango, and the price was not too different either at around Rs 150/KG. Even though Mexicans might not normally speak fluent English, they are quick to become friends with. People are generally pleasant and recent acquaintances are not hesitant to host you at their houses. Mexican hospitality is similar to South Asian culture, in terms of lavishness and open heartedness of the hosts AFFORDABILITY — one of the most enjoyable aspects of Mexico is the sheer affordability of housing, food and transport. The subway in Mexico City costs around Rs 40 for a one way journey, and has excellent connectivity throughout the city. Buses are an effective and cheap way to travel between cities, and the prices are sometimes even cheaper than what you would expect to be charged for a Daewoo bus back home. Unlike the USD that is around PKR 160, a Mexican peso is only for PKR 8, and you can get a decent overnight room for PKR 3000-4000 per night. If you’re coming from the US, United and Delta Airlines provide a affordable option with return flights sometimes as less as $300. NATURAL & CULTURAL BEAUTY — Mexico offers a diverse range of options for people who are nature and culture lovers. The Teotihuacan pyramids are one of the highest in the world, the treks to the volcanoes are extremely picturesque and the beaches in the south are one of the most beautiful in the continent. For those who love culture, the rich history of the Aztec and the Mayan civilisations that can be seen all over the country is something to relish about. The Frida Kahlo museum and the museum of Anthropology in Mexico city are one of the most visited in the world, and it is not an uncommon sight to see huge lines of tourists waiting for their turn to experience them. FOOD — coming from Lahore, food has always been close to my heart. And Mexico does not disappoint at all. The Mexican Tortilla is actually an equivalent of our Maize flatbread and can be consumed with a wide range of meat and vegetarian options. The tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas and Tlayuda are rich in taste, widely available and very affordable. You can get a decent meal in under $5 and the prices are even lower if you are willing to consume street food. The spice levels are comparative to South Asia, and Mexicans use a wide range of spices and herbs in their foods. Vegetables and fruits have a wide variety and are readily available for very cheap prices. No wonder Trump faces so much resistance to his idea of building a wall with one of the reasons being the fact that Mexico meets a significant portion of the fruits and vegetable demand of the US. On the downside, for those who only eat Hilal while travelling, there are almost no options as the Muslim population in the country of around 100 million is a mere 2,500. NO VISA REQUIRED IF YOU HAVE A US VISA — one of the biggest challenges for Pakistani travellers intending to visit a new country abroad are the visa restrictions and the bureaucratic procedures that are involved in acquiring the visa. Mexico is pretty convenient in this aspect as anyone with a US visa can visit the country and does not need to get a separate visa. Mexico with its scenic beauty, rich culture, friendly people, high level of affordability and delicious cuisines can emerge as a very popular and suitable destination for Pakistani tourists. The Latin American countries offer a lot of attractions and remain a relatively unexplored territory for the South Asian tourists. This might change in the future, as more people visit these countries and share their travel stories with family and friends.