Mexico City Travel Guide: What To Do And How To Prepare

Mexico City can be overwhelming, especially when you consider that it’s one of the biggest cities in the world (with over 21 million inhabitants!). But to experience it like a local, all you need is this handy guide.
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Mexico City Travel Guide: What To Do And How To Prepare

Illustration by Victoria Fernandez.

Best Time Of Year To Travel To Mexico City

March–April: If you’re looking for a beautiful place to celebrate the Spring Equinox, you can do it in style at the Teotihuacán Pyramids (especially because the blooming jaracanda trees will bathe the streets in purple).

September: This is our national month! In restaurants, you’ll be able to order the notorious chiles en nogada and, on the 16th, we celebrate our Independence Day on the Zócalo, the city’s main square.

October–November: This time of year is also a great time to visit Mexico City (and not just because the weather is better than most places in the Northern Hemisphere). It’s an especially lovely time because the city becomes filled with altars and marigolds to celebrate the Day of the Dead, which officially falls on November 1st and 2nd.

How To Prepare

  • Like any capital city, Mexico City is chaotic. Not quite to the same extent as New Delhi, Tokyo or Hanoi, but it’s definitely worth some mental preparation for those “people everywhere” moments.
  • Don’t try to pack too much in. The city is huge and traffic tends to be slow, so you should really factor in travel time and figure out the best routes to get the most out of your stay.
  • The climate is unpredictable. While we’re relatively close to the equator, locals joke that we experience every season in a single day. The best thing is to pack for cold, rain and heat, and to dress in layers. The annual average temperature ranges from 9-24°C (48-75°F).

Financial Preparations

  • While Mexico City is more expensive than some of its bordering states, it’s undoubtedly cheaper than La Riviera Maya, Baja California, or almost anywhere in the United States. One of its best advantages is that, because it’s a big city, it’s easy to find entertainment and food options to suit all budgets.
  • Tipping is optional, and by law, no establishment can add it on top of your bill, but it’s recommended to leave between 10-15% to be polite. 
  • When you go to exchange your money, ask for small bills if possible. And keep any loose change to pay for public toilets or to buy a quick snack on the street.

Transport In Mexico City

Metro: 5 pesos for a single trip, regardless of distance or connections, which is ideal for covering long distances and getting to congested areas like Reforma, Polanco and Centro Histórico.

Metrobús: 6 pesos for a single trip one way (plus 16 pesos by pre-paid card). Recommended for shorter journeys.

Ecobici: This is a public bike-sharing program financed by the government. It’s particularly handy for getting around a colonia (neighborhood), like Roma or Condesa. However, the lack of cycle lanes means longer journeys aren’t recommended. They offer 1-, 3- and 7-day plans, with almost 500 pick-up points around the city.

Taxi or Uber: This is the best option for getting around at night, especially when you don’t know the exact route. You can spot a cab by its pink and white colors and the Mexico City logo. They run on a meter and start at around 9 pesos.

Accommodation

To avoid wasting too much time getting around, the best option is to look for a hotel or Airbnb near the Chapultepec/Reforma area. From there, you can easily get to Centro Histórico, Roma, Condesa and Polanco, which are the most popular tourist spots.

The Best Of Mexico City In 24, 48 And 72 Hours

Day 1: Breakfast at the Casa de los Azulejos (literally, “the house of tiles“), then explore the beautiful architecture of the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the Palacio de Correos and the Metropolitan Cathedral, grab lunch in a café on the Zócalo, journey to Templo Mayor Archaeological Site and Museum, then the traditional La Ciudadela market, and end with Mariachi night on Plaza Garibaldi and a few drinks in La Ópera bar.

Day 2: Start with a trip by trajinera (canal boat) along the canals of Xochimilco, then explore Chapultepec Castle and the National Museum of Anthropology and History, pause for lunch at a restaurant in the Roma neighborhood, enjoy lucha libre (wrestling) in the Arena México, and finish with dinner and bar-hopping in the Condesa neighborhood.

Day 3: It wouldn’t be a trip to Mexico City without a visit to the Teotihuacán archaeological site (including pyramids and residential compounds), then spend an afternoon in Coyoacán to visit the city’s bohemian district, try some Mexican street food (antojitos) and get some last-minute shopping done in the crafts market.

Typical Dishes

  • Tacos al pastor
  • Tacos de canasta
  • Pambazos
  • Quesadillas
  • Esquites or Elotes
  • Huaraches
  • Gorditas

Most importantly: Enjoy your stay! If you get frustrated that you can’t see it all, just remember that few of the locals have done it all either.

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