What to know before heading to Mexico City

My trip to Mexico City was fraught with contradicting feelings. On one hand, everyone my age has been or wants to go to Mexico City. I even mention the city, and 5 people chime in about how they want to go or just came back and have 1,000 recommendations for me. On the other hand, my parents, aunt, uncle, and others were afraid for me. So strange because I didn’t even get this kind of reaction when I went to Thailand a couple years ago. Either way, amidst my excitement I was hesitant because people I care about told me to be careful, which they never do!

I was super careful. Maybe too careful at the beginning, hiding money in my underwear. As I got more comfortable I calmed down. No one was out to get me. We did our best blending in and paying attention to our belongings and not being idiots about it, and we were totally fine. It’s just like NYC – it might be dangerous in some neighborhoods, so avoid those neighborhoods. It might be iffy in major tourist areas, so pay attention. Same goes for Mexico City. Either way, here are my common sense tips:

Mexico City what to wear

Money:

Every day I brought only what I needed and left the rest at my Airbnb, like my debit card and passport. I got cash at an ATM in the airport so was all set there. The exchange rate when I went was about 100 pesos = $5 USD.

Food safety:

It is a little work to ensure you’re not drinking the water-including eating fresh veggies washed in the water. We ate everything at restaurants like Entremar and Azul, but didn’t want to trust any old restaurant or food cart.

Generally, what they say is true: eat street foods from busy vendors, with food that’s cooked or reheated on a hot skillet in front of you. Don’t drink the water. We even brushed our teeth with bottled water.

Mexico City street food

Transportation:

We didn’t take the subway, not that we were afraid, but an Uber was always faster. You may hear that traffic is really bad. It wasn’t any worse than NYC traffic for us. Plus Uber drivers are an AWESOME way to get to know a place. We had a few that gave us lots of info and flavor. They’re also way more polite in Mexico City.

The subway we heard was very easy. Everything was labeled in photos for those who are illiterate. Note that the first two subway cars are for women only. So nice, huh?

Roads Mexico City

Language:

Speak Spanish please. If you don’t know it well, here are some phrases to help below. Use them in addition to pointing at menus and pantomiming.

Hola, que tal? – hi how are you? (Nice when you enter an Uber)

Muy bien, gracias – very well, thank you

La Cuenta, por favor – the check, please

Quería – I would like… (when ordering food)

Botella de agua- Bottle of water

No hielo – no ice

No lechuga – no lettuce

Donde está – where is …

Perdón – excuse me (walking by)

Lo siento / disculpe – sorry / excuse me (in conversation)

I think you can handle these!

Crowds:

There are a lot of them if you’re not used to a big city. Wear an across the body purse with a zipper and keep it in your sight.

Paseo de la reforma

Bathrooms:

They’re typical, but remember to throw toilet paper in the trash, not the pot!

Clothing:

They wear PANTS in 80/90 degree weather. That means to feel most comfortable and stand out less, you will wear pants. Simple clothes like T-shirts and jeans are all I wore. Sandals aren’t even a thing. I wore Sperry’s, but a nice sneaker would be fine.

Don’t wear your most expensive stuff. You don’t want to look like you’re made of money. Dress modestly.

Casa de Azul

I felt totally fine in the neighborhoods we visited in Mexico City. I think a lot of the fear that people have for Mexico City is outdated, and it originally came from a place of forced racism from our own government. Did you know Marijuana was named as such in a campaign against the drug? A Mexican Spanish word was used to make it sound foreign and “evil.” Plus there’s always a common enemy of the US based on wars we’re fighting. Think about right now, what’s the race we’re most “afraid” of?

Either way, it’s time to take down your own walls and head to Mexico City, where the people are kind, the food is good and the mezcal goes down easy.

Have you ever traveled to a place you were told was dangerous?

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3 comments

  1. For the record your dad, wasn’t against it—or so he says. Your mother , however, was. The Thailand trip was with a tour group; this one was not. You stayed in hotels in Thailand; this one you stayed in some air b&b in God knows where. So there were some differences in the trips. Just thinking about your safety and envisioning me having to rescue you from some dank, dark prison. Who knows, I may have had to come up with some money for ransom too! Okay, okay, I’m being dramatic. And the personal alarm I sent you ( that, once opened in a granade-like fashion and let out an ear-drum piercing sound) was my way of helping to protect you. Once a mom, always a mom.

    Liked by 1 person

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