Visiting Mexico City? Here are a few things to keep in mind while traveling to Mexico City that will help your trip go smoothly!
After landing we waited in a loooong line for foreigner’s customs. Mexican Nationals are absolutely given preference at this stage in the process, so be prepared to wait. When we finally were called up to the agent, we were questioned pretty vigorously about our trip, including the address that we were staying at and our intentions during our trip, so have all of your information ready. This was the first instance of many that helped us realize that speaking Spanish while visiting Mexico City is VERY helpful. Once we got through that slightly intimidating interrogation, we made our way out of the airport.
If you are flying into Mexico City, I would recommend changing a small amount in the airport when you arrive, and exchanging the rest at a bank or casa de cambio in the city. That way you will get the best rate. In fact, the exchanges inside the terminal charge a higher fee per peso than even the exchange just outside the terminal. Exchanges in the city (or an ATM!) will be your best bet. There’s no getting around the exchange rate, because you’ll definitely need cash if you want to buy food from the street stalls, or anything in a market or from an artisan. Credit and debit cards are pretty much only taken in restaurants, and even then your only guaranteed bet is a Visa.
To travel to our hotel, we requested a certified taxi outside the terminal by telling the taxi counter our destination. They printed a receipt and we took it to an attendant who directed us to a driver. The exact science of tipping in Mexico is still a little bit foggy to me, but the driver loaded our carry-ons into the trunk for us, so we tipped him a few pesos there, and a few more upon safe arrival. I highly recommend sticking with a verified taxi service out of the airport and then uber through the rest of the city to be safest. Ask the driver to lock the doors and keep the windows closed. We stayed in touristy areas and never had any problems but it’s better to be safe.
We also avoided the metro just to avoid the pickpocketing that’s inevitable in packed stations and trains. Ubers that were 20-30 minutes long cost us no more than $4. We could afford it, so we took those everywhere. With that in mind, traffic in the City can get CRAZY, especially around the airport, so we found ourselves checking the time it would take to get somewhere in traffic before planning our days. Once you get in that habit, or plan your trip so you’ll spend more time walking, things go a lot smoother. On Sundays, La Paseo de La Reforma, a major street running East-West in the city, is closed, so plan for longer travel times.
It’s important to choose where you’re staying and visiting carefully since like in any large city, there are some parts of D.F. (or their new name CDMX) that are not quite safe. The Centro Historico is very safe and has many tourists, but Roma, Condesa, and Polanco are younger, hipper, and trendier neighborhoods that are also good options. For general safety, we avoided walking in deserted or dark areas, even if the neighborhood was good. We also avoided the large markets because of their reputation for association with narcos. Though we have known people who visited them and had no problems, it was a personal preference on our part not to go.
If you want to dress to blend in, which is generally the safest and most respectful way to travel anywhere, choose clothes that wouldn’t be out of place in large European Cities. Jeans and blouses with Sperry’s were my go to sight-seeing outfit – it was appropriate in churches because my knees and shoulders were covered, and easy to walk in. I saw plenty of women wearing knee length skirts, but nobody except children and tourists wore shorts. For dinner, I was most comfortable and inconspicuous in knee length dresses or cocktail casual separates and sandals.
If you keep these tips in mind and stay aware of your surroundings, you can have a fun and relaxing trip while visiting Mexico City. There’s so much culture and history to experience, and the food is unbeatable. It’s definitely worth a visit.
Raeesa is a full time systems developer with a taste for adventure, and as such, is becoming an expert at weekend trips. She travels with her Mexican husband who has instilled a love of Latino culture in her and made her an honorary Mexicana. On their travels, they spend their time soaking up the local culture in between cooking and eating. Check out her blog at adventurae.com for adventure tips or find her on Instagram @adventuraeesa for pictures of food worth flying for.