8 Practical Tips for Visiting Mexico City

We modestly assert that this post is based on our own research and experiences during our 10 day holiday trip to Mexico City.

For a detailed journal and itinerary of our trip, click here for part 1 (our first 5 days), and here for part 2 (our last 5 days).

Our trip dates: December 24th, 2018 – January 2nd, 2019

1. Getting Around Mexico City

From the Airport

The easiest (and still cheap) way to get from the airport to your hotel/Airbnb is by Uber. When we arrived, it was much less chaotic than we expected. Though, we arrived late Christmas Eve, when most businesses are closed and everyone is celebrating with their families. I ordered the Uber right after we got our bags and it arrived in 5 minutes. The Uber cost us $280 Pesos ($14 USD) to get to the Roma Norte neighborhood (about a 20 minute drive with no traffic), and $150 Pesos ($8 USD) to get back to the airport.

Uber

Uber was our primary way to get around the city when we didn’t feel like walking. There are Ubers everywhere and we never had to wait more than 5 minutes. Most of our Ubers cost between $40-$80 Pesos ($2 – $4 USD) – 10-15 minute rides.

Lime & Bird Electric Scooters

Our favorite way to explore a neighborhood was to use electric scooters. We used Lime Scooters (download the app). There are Bird Scooters as well. They are very easy, fun, and cheap to ride, about $100 Pesos ($5 USD) for every 30 minutes. The only problem is that we had to stop every few blocks to check Google Maps and make sure we knew where we were going.

There are also bikes you can rent all over the city (Eco Bici), though we never took advantage of these.

The Metro

We only used the Metro once during one of our AirBNB experiences/tours. It is the cheapest option to get around, costing only $10 Pesos to buy your Metro card (cash only), and $5 Pesos per ride. You can buy your Metro card and refill it at any station. Our one ride was much more clean and comfortable than we expected, though we were not riding it during rush hour (8am-10am and 5pm-7pm), which we hear you should avoid at all costs. We only used the Metro once because using Uber and scooters were simply more convenient, and still cheap.

Walking

The city is huge, and we typically wouldn’t walk if our destination was more than 1km away. Although, we would definitely recommend walking around individual neighborhoods, such as Roma Norte, La Condesa, Juárez, Polanco, or Chapultepec Park.

2. Money

We would definitely recommend stocking up on cash from an ATM right away at the airport. You will typically pay less fees via an ATM, compared to cash exchange counters. We took out $4000 Pesos ($200 USD), which lasted 6 days.

We used our credit card (with no foreign transaction fees) at all of the restaurants and bars we went to, but you will still need cash at most markets, public restrooms, street food vendors, etc.

3. Using Public Restrooms

Be prepared! If you are exploring the city and find yourself needing to use a public restroom, make sure to bring extra toilet paper and hand sanitizer if possible. You will likely be given about 6 squares of paper from the attendant, and will find none in the actual stalls. These public restrooms cost anywhere from $4-$6 Pesos, so having coins for this is ideal. Most legit restaurants, cafes, and bars, however, will have what you need.

4. Drinking Water

Don’t risk it. Don’t drink water out of the tap. You can buy purified bottled water everywhere (markets, restaurants, 7-elevens, etc.). We stuck to buying bottled water at corner stores and 7-elevens, and then kept filling up the water bottle we brought from home. Bottled water is cheap, about $.50 USD for a liter.

We hear you can use tap water to brush your teeth, as long as you don’t swallow, but we also used bottled water for this as a precaution.

5. Using Spanish

Don’t be naive and assume people speak English! Most people don’t. Brush up on simple phrases and numbers. It will go a long way! We also used the Google Translate app almost every day.

Some of our most used phrases:

  • Cuánto cuesta? (How much?)
  • Dónde está… (Where is…)
  • Aquí (Here)
  • Todo listo (All done)
  • Eso es todo (That is all)
  • La cuenta, por favor (The bill, please)
  • Tendremos or Tendré (We will have or I will have)
  • Buenos días, tardes, noches (Good morning, afternoon, evening)

6. Safety

There are many blog posts out there and opinions on how safe Mexico City is. We will only talk about what we specifically learned and experienced in Mexico City.

We did a lot of research and spoke with a couple locals about what neighborhoods are safest. These are the neighborhoods we stuck to 90% of the time: Roma Norte (where our AirBNB was), La Condesa, Hipódromo, Juárez, Polanco, and Coyoacán (which, according to our local tour guide who grew up here, is the safest neighborhood for tourists). In these neighborhoods, we truly never felt unsafe, even at night. Though, in regard to these neighborhoods, the statement, “it’s just like any other major city, just be aware of your surroundings and use common sense” is a good tip.

We also felt safe around one of our favorite markets, Mercado Jamaica, in the Jamaica neighborhood. Generally speaking, just don’t go wandering around neighborhoods you are unsure of. A couple of our local tour guides suggested it’s best to Uber from point A to point B when outside of the above neighborhoods.

The Centro neighborhood, near Zocalo Square, is also safe. Just don’t walk any more than a few blocks north and towards the Tepito neighborhood, as this can unsafe, especially at night. We were told this by a couple locals.

7. Hire a Tour Guide

As English speakers that know muy poco español, we thought it was best to book a few tours with locals that speak English. It’s a safe way to explore and understands parts of the city that you may have never thought about going to. Here are the tours that we booked during our holiday trip to Mexico City:

8. Visiting Mexico City During Christmas & New Years

Traveling during the holidays? Take the time to research what places will be closed during the holidays in order to avoid aimless, hangry searches for places to eat and things to do. Facebook messenger ended up being a great tool to use when a restaurant, museum, or attraction didn’t state their holiday hours on their website.

Make dinner reservations for New Years Eve–we reserved at Balmori Rooftop Bar. Where we were (Roma Norte/La Condesa neighborhood), the city appeared to shut down the evening of NYE. Even street vendors closed up shop. Having something of a plan in a massive city like Mexico City is a must.

During Christmas, the celebrations are at Zocalo Square, but on New Years Eve, the celebration is on the Av. Paseo de la Reforma and around The Angel of Independence.

Do you have any other questions about Mexico City? Message us.

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