Mexico Currency Exchange Guide

Mexico is a land of endless opportunities for anyone looking for an incredible tourist destination. With its gorgeous beaches, ancient ruins, alluring culture, and dynamic cities bursting with neoclassical architecture, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in Mexico. The country is also home to some of the best cuisines in the world, making it a paradise for food lovers. And, of course, no trip to Mexico would be complete without sampling some of the finest tequila and mezcal. Whether you’re looking to soak up the sun or explore Mexico’s ancient ruins, you won’t be disappointed with what this amazing country has to offer.

General Mexico Currency Information

What is the currency of Mexico?

The official currency in Mexico is the Mexican peso (MXN).

What do Mexican notes & coins look like?

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Mexican notes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 pesos. Coins come in denominations of 50 centavos and 1, 2, 5 and 10 pesos.

The Mexican peso coin is round, and the 1, 2, and 5 coins have a golden/bronze centre with a picture of the Mexican Coat of Arms in the middle, while the outside surrounding is silver. For the 10 peso coin, the outer ring is aluminium bronze, while the inner part is mixed with copper, zinc, and nickel.

mek coin

As for the Mexican peso note, the 20 peso note features colours red and green, the 50 peso note has a magenta hue, the 100 peso note is red, the 200 peso note is green, the 500 peso note is blue, and lastly, the 1,000 peso note is grey. There is also a 2,000 yellow peso note, but it is not frequently used. Each note image related to Mexican independence and history shows how Mexicans commemorate their culture and heritage through their currency.

Economy

Mexico is quickly becoming a global economic powerhouse, with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $1.09 trillion in 2020 – ranking it the 15th largest economy globally. Additionally, the Mexican currency is the 10th most traded currency worldwide, making it a key player in the global economy. It is also the third most traded currency in Latin America after USD (American dollars) and CAD (Canadian dollars).

The country’s economy is driven by several industries, including agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism, oil production, and remittances from the United States. As an emerging markets economy, Mexico has seen Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows totalling $29.3 billion in recent years, placing it 19th in the World Export Rankings. With 50% of its population considered middle class and 30% upper class, Mexico is poised for continued economic growth in the coming years.

Brief currency history

For many years after Mexico’s 1821 declaration of independence, the country’s government relied on the Spanish monetary system. In 1866, under the reign of Emperor Maximilian I, Mexico struck its first one-peso currency. Each peso consisted of 100 centavos, departing from the traditional Spanish dollar or real currency.

Over time, cheaper metals replaced the more expensive gold and silver in coinage. The peso’s gold content was cut by nearly half in 1905. After that, silver prices dropped. The weight and purity of all silver coins decreased from 1918 to 1977, when the last silver peso coin was minted.

Since the founding of the Bank of Mexico in 1925, it has had the sole authority to create legal tender in the form of banknotes and metal coins. It also managed the supply of money, the value of money, and interest rates.

It was necessary to establish Mexico’s central bank in order to revive the country’s credit system and introduce banknotes into widespread circulation. In this regard, the financial agency was granted the authority to function as a conventional credit institution and fulfil the issuing bank role. In the years between 1929 and 1930, the Mexican banknotes were finally institutionalised as the national currency and primary means of payment in the country.

Currently, the paper money used comes in denominations of 20 pesos, 50 pesos, 100 pesos, 200 pesos, and 500 pesos. The coins most widely circulated as of 2020 have face values of 50¢, $1, $2, $5, and $10. Commemorative $20 peso coins are less frequently seen than dollar banknotes. The 5¢ coin was discontinued in 2002, while the 10¢ and 20¢ coins gradually fell out of circulation as their value became too low for continued use.

 

Taking Travel Money to Mexico

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What currency should I take to Mexico?

If you’re travelling to Mexico, you’ll need to exchange your Australian dollars (AUD) for Mexican pesos (MXN) before you leave. View our guide on exchanging AUD to MXN here. 

Is it cheaper to convert currency in Australia or Mexico?

It’s generally cheaper to convert your currency into Mexican pesos before you leave Australia, as you’ll get a better exchange rate. However, it’s always a good idea to have some USD on hand in case of an emergency. This way, you can easily exchange currency at a bank if needed.

How much money can I take to Mexico?

While carrying up to USD $10,000 (or equivalent in foreign currency) in cash into Mexico does not require a declaration, higher sums do. Customs must be informed if you transport more than USD $10,000 into the country.

Where to convert currency?

Crown Currency Exchange is the best place to get your travel money before you leave for Mexico. With over 20 years of experience in the foreign currency exchange industry, we can offer you great exchange rates on over 80 different currencies with no commission or fees. Our friendly staff are willing to answer any questions you may have, and we have branches all over Australia, so you’re sure to find one near you. Our stores are located in CanberraSydneyBrisbane, The Gold CoastAdelaideTasmaniaMelbourne & Perth

Is tipping customary in Mexico? How much is expected?

In many countries around the world, gratuities are given to those who provide services, especially in Mexico. Here, service industry workers generally make more from tips than their hourly wage–tips are essential for their income.

Restaurants: In restaurants, it is customary to tip 15% of the bill; if you are dining with a large group, a service charge may be applied automatically (look out for that). If you believe you have received exceptional service, a 20% tip is greatly appreciated.

Taxis: If you’re ever taking a street or an app cab, it’s always appreciated if you leave a tip for the driver. For street cabs, consider rounding up to the nearest $5 or $10 pesos; for app cabs, most apps now have an option to add a tip at the end of your journey. You can also pay the driver in cash if you’d like.

Hotels: For each night spent at a hotel in Mexico, it is usual to leave a tip of between US$1 and US$5 (equivalent in Mexican pesos) for the chambermaid. As chambermaids operate on a schedule, it is advisable to leave a tip daily if you are staying more than one night.

Car parks and valets: Car parks in Mexico’s larger towns and cities are sometimes ‘patrolled’ by men (and occasionally women) who assist drivers in locating a vacant spot, keep a watch on the vehicles, and assist them in reversing out of the parking lot. As you exit, it is common but not required to pay $2 to $5 pesos. A small gratuity of $10 to $20 pesos, appropriate with the class of the establishment, is anticipated if your vehicle is attended to by valet service.

Tour guides and drivers: Group tour guides should be tipped between 3 and 5 dollars per day, or 10% to 20% of the ticket price if you are satisfied with their service (10 dollars a day if you have taken a private tour). Bus drivers should also be tipped $2 each day as a minimum.

Salons and spas: As a general guideline, when you receive a hair styling service that you’re happy with, tip 15% of the total cost. Add 15-20% to the bill to show your appreciation for spa treatments.

Can you bargain in Mexico?

Yes. You may find it on street-side vendors, flea markets, beach sellers, and cabs. In fact, you’ll be able to get “brag-able” discounts on embroidered apparel, hats, handbags, beaded jewellery, tooled leather goods, printed art, masks and artisan products by utilising this money-saving strategy.

What is ATM access like in Mexico?

You have no worries finding an ATM because it is almost everywhere in Mexico – in cities, towns and even villages. MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted ATM cards in Mexico. Be aware that some ATMs will charge you a foreign transaction fee for withdrawals – usually, this is 3% of the amount withdrawn, but it can be higher. Also, always take into account the exchange rate when withdrawing money from an ATM; you may get a better deal by exchanging your currency in advance.

What should you budget per day?

Budget

A reasonable minimum amount to spend per day in Mexico City if you have a tight budget is MXN $1,050 (or around AUD $84). With this budget, you can afford a hostel dorm room, food from street carts and groceries for self-made meals, transportation via buses and trains, as well as some daily activities (like visiting museums or local art galleries). And if you intend to go out more often or drink alcohol while on your trip here, we recommend adding an additional 100-300 pesos daily to your budget.

Moderate

For a more comfortable and realistic daily budget in Mexico City, we recommend setting aside at least MXN $1,700 (or around AUD $136). With this amount, you can afford a private room in a mid-range hotel or Airbnb apartment, eat traditional los comidas at local restaurants, occasionally use cabs for transportation, and do one or two tourist activities each day.

Luxury

For a luxury daily budget in Mexico City, expect to spend MXN $5,000 (or around AUD $398) per day. You can even exceed this amount if you want to stay in a 5-star hotel, eat at the best opulent restaurants, take private tours, and do other high-end activities. Having no worries about money while on vacation definitely has its perks!

Currency details

Currency:

Mexican peso

Currency code:

MXN

Currency symbol:

$, MX$, Mex$

Central bank:

Banco de México

Nickname:

Lana, marimba, morlacos, papiros, varonil, varos

Currency sub-unit:

Centavo = 1/100

Bank notes:

$20, $50, $100, $200, $500, $1,000

Coins:

50¢, $1, $2, $5 and $10

Must-do's while you are in Mexico

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1. Adventures at Mexico City's Museums

Brimming with more than 150 museums, it’s no surprise that Mexico City is known as the “City of Museums”. From world-renowned institutions like the Museo Nacional de Antropología to smaller, more quirky ones like the Museo del Chocolate, you won’t run out of things to see and do.

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2. A Day Trip to Teotihuacan

The ancient ruins of Teotihuacan are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico. Located just an hour outside of Mexico City, this archaeological site is home to some of the tallest pyramids in the world. Be sure to add it to your list!

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3. A Stroll Through Chapultepec Park

Chapultepec Park is one of the largest parks in Mexico, and it’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of Mexico City. With plenty of green space to relax in, as well as museums, lakes and even a zoo, there’s something for everyone here.

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4. Shopping at the Bazaar Sabado

If you’re looking for a unique shopping experience, head to the Bazaar Sabado. This open-air market is held every Saturday in the San Angel neighbourhood, and it’s the perfect place to find locally made arts and crafts, jewellery and more.

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5. A Taste of Mexico City's Street Food

From spicy tacos to refreshing aguas frescas, Mexico City’s street food is not to be missed. Be sure to try some of the city’s signature dishes, such as quesadillas, churros and tamales. And don’t forget to wash it all down with a cold beer or margarita!

Other helpful guides & resources on travel in Mexico

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