has everything you need to know. Basically it takes about a month for the application to be processed. First time applications need to be done in person. Photos are done at some locations, check: http://iafdb.travel.state.gov/ but call the location you intend to use to confirm, otherwise lots of places do passport photos - Walgreen's and the like. You will be using form DS-11 http://travel.state.gov/passport/forms/ds11/ds11_842.html
Forget about the "Passport Card" unless you plan on driving out of the country in the future or you just want a pretty card. Costs an extra $45 in addition to the required Passport Book.
Cost is $100 (in one or two checks depending on where you apply) for first time application with no frills http://travel.state.gov/passport/get/fees/fees_837.html
Expedited service $60 and you might get your passport a week or two earlier. $15 for overnight delivery might save a day or two.
One thing to bear in mind if you can get some time off, you lose 2 days traveling. It's pretty much an all day project flying each direction.
What’s there to do in and around Mazatlán? World class fishing. Bit spendy for me and in any case I simply can't handle being seasick for several hours any more times in this lifetime. One of several charters: http://www.vikingsfleet.com/Mazatlan-Deep-Sea-Fishing.html
I'm taking a couple of poles and tackle to try some surf fishing which I understand can be quite good.
El Faro, 2nd highest lighthouse in the world. Not too bad of a hike especially if I've managed to do it twice. About 45 minutes up for me. 5 minute drive from our rental.
Stone Island. Nice beaches to get away from it all or go on the weekend and you'll find that it's a favorite spot for the local Mexicans. 5-10 minute walk from our rental to ferry and 10 minute boat ride over - $15MXP round trip ( about $1.10US these days!!)
Fiesta Mexicana at the Playa Mazatlan resort. Buffet dinner and a pretty good show. Drinks included. In '97 was able to get one drink. This year when we went a person would have had no problem getting sloshed, a very few did. I slipped our waiter $50MXP and he was very attentive. http://www.mazatlan.com.mx/tours/fiestamexicana/homepage.htm
Los Osuna Tequila Factory about an hour's drive north of Mazatlan. Worthwhile not only for the free samples. http://johnsmitchell.blogspot.com/2006/03/los-osuna-tequila-factory.html
Concordia/Copala. Nice day trip up in the hills to a couple of 16th century mining towns. http://johnsmitchell.blogspot.com/2006/08/earlier-this-year-i-was-fortunate.html
El Quelite. Small town about an hour north of Mazatlan. Good day trip combined with tequila factory. http://www.mazatlantours.org/el-quelite-tour.htm
Pacifico Brewery tour. Free tour with free beers in the tasting room at the end. Great 360 view of the city.
The Malecon, miles of beaches. http://www.mazatlan.com.mx/city/malecon.htm
The Central Market. A whole city block with dozens and dozens of vendors under one roof. Quite an experience. http://www.igougo.com/story-s1220598-Mazatlan-The_Central_Market_--_A_Taste_of_Mexico.html
Juarez flea market. Sunday Mexican style flea market. Lots of fun. My favorite activity is searching throught shirts and routinely finding a fair number of $50-$180US name brand shirts for $20-40MXP each.
Lots of things to photograph.
Food, including shrimp larger than a dollar bill. http://www.sheryll.net/Sheryll/2008_P_MX/2008_P_MX_MZT_Apt.htm
Parasailing. They usually don't deposit a paying customer into the side of a hotel, usually..... http://travel.webshots.com/album/352841336ONKdZE?start=0
On cruise ship days it's always fun to watch passengers walking around trying to commit suicide. They failed to take note of the warnings in their travel books about pedestrians having NO rights!!! It's up to them to watch out for cars not the other way around. Drivers are far too busy watching out for other drivers to have time to worry about people on foot. Generally a driver gets more points for a young able bodied pedestrian but to some a hit is a hit so even the elderly are targeted.
Dos and Don’ts in Mexico Do not buy pesos at the airport when you arrive. Shouldn't be a problem as we will intercept you before you have the opportunity.
Get some kind of hidden pocket, such as: http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___60362
Make 2-3 copies of ID (passport photo page, birth certificate, drivers license, etc.) Once you get there you will only be carrying copies on your person, never originals.
Little if any jewelry.
I carry a throw away wallet with a little cash and some closed account credit cards and those not real credit cards you get in the mail, in the wallet. Have never felt threatened and don't ever expect to be but just in case I figure it's better to be able to offer up something rather than trying to say I have nothing. No self-respecting crook is gonna believe that. Real money and cards are stashed in various places like most Mexicans do - sock, shirt pockets, hidden pocket, etc. I feel MUCH safer in Mexico than in the US. We often walk around at night which I wouldn't dream of doing most places in the US.
For getting cash at ATMs use debit cards not credit cards. Bring a credit card or two for emergency use only. Photocopy the cards you bring. Call card issuers and banks and request that they flag your accounts that you are going to be out of the country. Ask them to provide you with an "international collect call number". 800 numbers are not free and do not work from Mexico regardless of what some say. Insist on an "international collect call number". Sometimes cards have this number printed on the back of them.
Might want to check with your bank about ATM fees. I hear some can go $5 or more per transaction in addition to the Mexican ATM's fee which is usually 50c-$1. Some banks will reimburse the fees. A way to completely avoid the fees is to bring some cash preferably in newish bills for exchange at banks. Torn, folded, soiled, etc. bills will be rejected. Do not buy travelers checks as they are frowned upon.
You do not need any vaccinations. That said I would suggest that tetanus (DT) be up to date and go for Hepatitis A & B vaccinations. A is one shot and B is a series of 3. First two are 1 month apart and the 3rd is 6 months later I think. There is also a 2 shot series for B but don't know how that works.
Do not need any electrical adaptors. Mexico is the same as the US.
Batteries and film are expensive in Mexico. Anything electrical is generally more expensive. Sunscreen is a must and cheaper in US - SPF 45 or better.
Doctors and dentists are cheap and good.
Two most important phrases: for vendors - "no gracias", and for timeshare people "I'm Canadian" ( they can't legally pitch to Canadians!!!).
Mexico is not known for good coffee or any black tea.
Pack your own food/snacks for plane. Take empty water bottles through security and refill after passing through before boarding.
Jeans are OK but light weight slacks would be much more comfortable. So what do I mostly wear? Jeans..... Shorts are permissible but not seen that much outside of the tourist areas except for cruise ship folks who generally don't have a clue about much of anything. They stand out like a very sore thumb. Shorts are seen even less often on women outside of tourist areas, again cruise ship excepted.
Ammunition, even a spent shell, lead from a bullet, even if just part of some jewelry is an automatic free ticket to 5-20 years in prison. No exceptions, no trial, no appeals, no bail, do not pass go, go directly to jail!!! Prisons in Mexico are not the country clubs the US ones are.
On the plane, when they pass out tourist cards to fill out, be sure to ask for a couple of extra copies. Same thing on the way back when they pass out US customs declarations.
Never drink with Mexicans!!! It would be extremely impolite and possibly dangerous to stop drinking before both you and the person you are drinking with have completely run out of money.