Mexico City: Know before you go

Mexico City (CDMX), the largest city in Mexico & most populous city in North America, is located in the mountains, 2.2 kilometres above sea level. CDMX is not only the fourth largest city in the world with a population 22 million, it is also one of the richest. CDMX is one of the most important financial centers in the world, ranked the 7th richest city in the world, after Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris and London.

This busy city is home to over 150 museums, many green parks and the largest subway system in Latin America. Zocalo, the city’s central square, spans 46,800 square meters, making it the second-largest on the planet, and the first among Spanish-speaking countries.

CDMX may sound intimidating after reading how big the city is, but I urge you not to let the size of the city scare you away from visiting. It is a beautiful, vibrant city filled with friendly locals, rich culture and delicious food. Here are some tips, tricks and facts to know before visiting CDMX to help make your trip a little easier!

This store near Casa Azul was filled with art made by people of Mexico

Getting around- More than 25% of the population – 7 million people, use the subway every day, which consists of 195 stations connected by 12 lines along 140 miles. The subway is clean and safe and costs 5 MX (.25 USD) per ride. The city is great for walking and biking, with lime scooters and Ubers around for options as well. It is not recommended for foreigners to use taxis off the street. Personally we used Uber for every city adventure we went on- it is quick, safe, and cheap.

Centro de la Diversidad Cultural

Cell phone & Internet– If you don’t have an international cell phone plan you can pick up a local sim card at Oxxo or 7-11. It’s a very simple process and doesn’t require any ID or paperwork. Start with MX100 ($5 USD) and then you can add more credit from your phone if you need it. Wifi is widely available throughout the city through a system of more than 19,000 free WiFi hotspots that locals and international visitors can log on to with no limitations on use.

Vivero de Coyoacán is a combination tree nursery and public park which covers 38.9 hectares in the city

Safety– the city is relatively safe. Use common sense and follow the same rules you should in any large city: be aware of your surroundings, don’t wander around alone at night, don’t be flashy with cash or other valuables, and mindful of your belongings.

Covid 19– We visited CDMX in November 2021 and at that time all indoor establishments required patrons and staff to properly wear masks at all times. Most places also required everyone to have their temperate taken and apply hand sanitizer before entering. A couple of museums also required you to get sprayed down with some sort of disinfectant. While masks are not required outdoors, most local people were wearing masks at all times, even in open air spaces. If your country requires you to have a negative covid test to get back home, you can easily take one in the airport for $25 USD on your way out of town.

Getting sprayed down before entering the Museo Antropologia Mexico

Language– Spanish is the common spoken language in Mexico. You may run into some staff in hotels, restaurants or bars who speak a little English but they will appreciate your attempts at speaking Spanish. It is always smart to learn some common phrases in the local language before visiting another county, and Mexico is no different. Body language, facil expressions and hand gestures go a long way when communicating as well, and when all else fails, there is google translate.

Mercado coyoacana is classic typical Mexican market where you can find anything you need

Money– At the time of writing this, 100 MX pesos is just less than $5 USD. Many places accept credit/debit card but you should have some pesos on you because you need pesos for street vendors, buses, and some of the museums.

Esquite from a street vendor was 30 pesos

Tipping– When eating street food tipping isnt expected or required, but it is appreciated. When it comes to sit down restaurants, a 10% tip is standard for good service. If youre paying with a credit card you can ask for “la terminal” and they will have you type in the tip amount. Also you can just say “mas el diez” when giving them your card and they will automatically add 10% to your bill.

We really enjoyed our lunch at La coyoacana- they have a classic cantina menu and cozy patio.

Food– In the city, street food is king! Don’t expect to eat too many vegetables or salads, it’s not really part of the culture. But I promise you’ll be so happy with the local cuisine you wont even miss veggies. Lunch is eaten later in the day in Mexico than in the US, typically around 2-3 pm, meaning many restaurants don’t open until 1 pm. The tap water in Mexico City is not safe to drink; use bottled and purified water for drinking and for brushing your teeth.

The best Tacos Al Pastor I’ve ever had cost 40 pesos

Weather– The climate is considered subtropical, which means the day times are mild or pleasantly warm and nights are cool in the summer and cold in the winter. After the sun drops, the temperate drops drastically; when we visited in November the temperature range was 45 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit so we spent the days in shorts and evenings in jackets. It is also very dry in the city, pack moisturizer.  

Teotihuacan, 1 hour from CDMX, is known today as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids.

I will be posting more detailed blogs about CDMX soon, but I hope this helps you learn a little about visiting the city for now. I loved my time there and would be happy to answer any questions you have- you can always contact me here!

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