I had always wanted to visit Mexico City. Maybe it’s my fascination with ancient cultures or my love affair with Mexican food, but it had been near the top of my list for quite some time. So when the opportunity came along for a very affordable trip, I jumped, even though it meant traveling solo. Here are some of my thoughts and reviews from the experience.
Customs was quick, but the airport is very spread out. You will have to walk what seems like miles. Be prepared for that. The airport is only a few miles from the Historical Center, but the route and traffic make it a 45-minute or so drive. Use an authorized taxi service. They have booths in the terminal, and you will get a receipt to take outside to a porter who will get you into the right car.
Remember, Mexico City, while relatively safe, is still a place to be careful. Don’t get into unauthorized cabs. My tip? I had my hotel or the restaurant I was eating at call my cars (or tell me where to get an official taxi). If I didn’t trust the restaurant, I’d walk to the nearest decent hotel and have them call a car for me.
The main area with nice hotels is Polanco, just north of Chapultepec Park. However, I wanted to stay in the Historical Center, and I am glad I did.
The Hampton Inn in the Historical Center was a beautiful hotel, and is incredibly affordable ($115 or 10,000 Honors points per night), including breakfast. It is just a two block walk from the main sights of the Historical Center. More importantly, the concierge, Alejandro, was amazing! He booked my tour to Teotihuacan, and was spot on with all of his recommendations. I cannot oversell this hotel. Stay here!!
There is so much to see and do in Mexico City! Here are my guides to a few of the neighborhoods you may want to explore.
The central square of Coyoacan.
Outside of these clusters of tourist sights, Mexico City holds so much for everyone. Head south to Xochimilco for a boat trip through the canals to see the way agriculture has always been produced in Mexico City. Swing north to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the second most visited church by pilgrims in the world.
And definitely take a day trip to the ancient city of Teotihuacan to climb the Pyramid of the Sun!
Let’s be honest. One of the best parts of travel is trying authentic local cuisine. Mexico City does not disappoint on this score. Street food and local restaurants are abundant and diverse. And cheap! The average meal in Mexico City cost me about $5 US.
For the best street tacos in the Historical Center, visit Tacos Los Cocuyos. It is a small stand with a menu I didn’t really comprehend, but oh my goodness, the suadero (brisket) tacos were heaven for about $1 each!
For dessert, head a few blocks west to El Moro, birthplace of churros. Four churros with chocolate dipping sauce and a bottle of water will set you back about $3. (And no, one churro is not a whole spiral shown here.)
For a fancy meal, Mexico City also has two of the top 25 restaurants in the world, Quintonil and Pujol, both in the Polanco neighborhood. I ate at Pujol, and it did not disappoint!
Even my friends and family were worried about my safety when I left. Let me say this clearly: at no point did I ever feel unsafe during my trip.
Mexico City is a huge city, and with that comes crime. Ask your hotel before designing a walking itinerary to make sure it’s a safe area. Be aware of your surroundings. I would give you the same advice in New York or Paris.
The only time I felt any danger was in trying to cross the street. It reminded me a bit of New York City, but with uncertainty as to who legally has the right of way. Drivers are aggressive. Do not assume they will stop for you.
I will add in this section that the tap water in Mexico is not safe to drink. Always order bottled water, and have extra to use for brushing your teeth.
I was surprised to find that few people speak English, including cab drivers. I kept a screenshot of my hotel name and address on my phone so that I could show a driver, rather than have him be forced to decipher my terrible Spanish accent. I also prepared a few basic Spanish phrases (ordering food, asking directions, etc…) so that I could get by during my explorations.
Wifi was hit or miss in restaurants, though in the hotel it was fast and steady.
Most restaurants and tourist attractions accepted credit cards, but nobody took US dollars. Taxis DO NOT take credit cards.
This was truly an incredible place to visit. There is more to do than could be done in the 4.5 days I had, and I can’t wait to return. I can’t recommend strongly enough to journey to our southern neighbor and see Mexico for yourself. The history, culture, food, and people all come together to form a really amazing destination!