FOR HISTORY, CULTURE & STREET TACOS

Mexico City

 


Mexico City is vast, but can be easy to get around with a little patience. However, if you want to avoid traffic or a crowded subway train, it might be best to locate yourself in an area near the things you want to see. Here’s what to keep in mind when planning a trip to Mexico City.

 
 

 
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Where to go if you’re looking for…

• ANCIENT CULTURES: Go to Teotihuacan or to the Anthropology Museum near Chapultepec Park.
TRENDY RESTAURANTS AND HOTELS: Condesa or Roma Norte
• FRIDA KAHLO'S MEXICO CITY:  Coyoacan

MORE MURALS THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE: Palacio Nacional and other government buildings in the Centro area near the Zocalo contain murals from Rivera, Siqueiros, and other artists active in the first half of the 20th century.

 

Important Tips

There are a lot of stereotypes and assumptions about both the country and the city, which won’t prepare you packing-wise. Here’s some tips for planning:

AIR QUALITY
The air quality in Mexico City varies throughout the year due to the smog and climate.  The rainy season is June-September, which helps keep the air clean through the fall. Late spring will be the worst of the smog

MEXICO CITY GETS COLD!
Due to its high altitude, even in the Summer and Fall the temps can be mid-60s in the day and can drop at night. Bring a sweater or jacket.

COSMOPOLITAN  STYLE
The people are pretty cosmopolitan, so pack your nice boots and jackets. You won’t stand out.

CARRY CASH
Mexico is still fairly cash-based. Higher-end restaurants and hotels will take credit cards, but otherwise you’ll need to make a few trips to an ATM during your stay. Map out where the closest ones are to you. ATMs have cash limits, sometimes only up 2000 pesos (about $100 USD at the time of writing this).

UBER COMES IN HANDY
Ubers are available and plentiful in the city. They can be helpful if you’re nervous about communicating with the driver, and the prices will be less than in the United States. For the budget minded, regular city cabs are cheaper and you can generally give them an address for them to GPS.

 

Itineraries & More

How many days is enough to see Mexico City? You could be there for years and not see it all, but I have some articles on what to see and do in short timeframes:

 
 

QUICK GUIDE

  • Language: Spanish

  • LGBT-Friendly: Yes, in most areas

  • Female-Friendly: Yes, in most areas

  • Best Time of Year: Fall or Winter

  • Price: $

  • Duration: 4-5 days

  • Transportation: Walk, Taxi, or Metro

  • Currency: Pesos

  • Credit Card-Friendly: No

  • Wi-Fi Friendly: Sometimes


BEFORE YOU GO

Check the national holidays and museum closures before you go.

Buy advance tickets for the Frida Kahlo Museum or be prepared to show up early.

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Know  what to expect arriving at Benito Juarez International by checking out my short guide.

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Tips for Solo Travel in Mexico City

IS IT SAFE?
What I heard repeatedly before I left was, "is it safe?" Mexico City has a reputation for being dangerous despite the fact that the crime rate is lower than in many American cities. However, Mexico City is also gigantic and sprawling. Some neighborhoods are going to be safer to be in as a woman than others. If you’re going alone, it’s probably best to stay in an area that has other younger people who will be out and about in both the day and evening. Condesa, Roma Norte, Coyoacan, and the main Central area all fall into that category. 

LANGUAGE TIPS
What I found both difficult and refreshing is that outside of the Central zone, Mexico City is a place that caters to Mexicans, not to foreign tourists. People don’t necessarily speak English, and they assume you know all the local customs. That being said, no one ever got annoyed at me for my limited Spanish. If you don’t speak it, have your Google translate available and make sure you write down addresses. Uber can be your friend if you’re unsure about communicating with the driver!

TAKE THE METRO!
It’s cheap and easy to navigate. Fun fact: When the Metro was being built in the 60's, they specifically designed pictures for each station to aid those who couldn't read. It is foreigner friendly. Avoid it during rush hours or late at night (after 10:30 or so) when the trains are either a little too full or a little too empty.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY,  HOW TO GET STREET TACOS
If you’re nervous about visiting some of the hard-to-get-to areas, or about ordering street tacos and beer (street tacos are the best), Airbnb experiences offer a wide variety of food and culture tours that will introduce you to fellow travelers and take some of the pressure off your directional and Spanish skills. As far as ordering street food, I always follow Anthony Bourdain's advice - find the street vendor who is the busiest and order form them. The other people probably know what they're doing, and the demand means the food has likely not sat long enough to develop any nasty bacteria. Don't be worried about street tacos - it's some of the most delicious food I had in Mexico City.