Difference between revisions of "Mexico City"
Revision as of 08:40, 12 May 2013
The city is officially divided into 16 delegaciones (boroughs) which are in turn subdivided into colonias (neighborhoods), of which there are around 250; however, it is better to think of the city in terms of districts to facilitate the visitor getting around. Many older towns like Coyoacán, San Angel and Tlalpan got merged into the urban sprawl, and each of these still manages to preserve some of their original and unique characteristics.
The outer area of Mexico City includes:
The greater Mexico City metropolitan area is one of the world's largest and the largest city in North America, with an estimated 20 million people living in the region. It is shaped roughly like an oval of about 60 km by 40 km, built on the dry bed of Lake Texcoco, and surrounded on three sides by tall mountains and volcanoes such as the Ajusco, the Popocatepetl and the Ixtaccihuatl. Mexico City proper (with a population of 8.8 million as of 2010) is in the Federal District (Spanish: Distrito Federal or D.F.), a federally-administered area (that is, not part of any Mexican state) which acts as the capital of Mexico. The rest of the metropolitan area extends beyond it into Mexico State, which surrounds D.F. on three sides. Legally and practically speaking, Mexico City is the same as the Federal District, much in the same way the city of Washington is the same as the District of Columbia in the United States' capital city. The Federal District is where most tourists will spend the majority of their time when visiting the city.
Mexico City is divided up into 16 delegaciones, similar to the boroughs of New York, which in turn are divided into "colonias" (neighborhoods), of which there are about 250. Knowing what colonia you're going to is essential to getting around, almost all locals will know where a given colonia is (but note that there are some colonias with duplicate or very similar names). As with many very large cities, the structure is relatively decentralized, with several parts of the city having their own miniature "downtown areas." However, the real downtown areas are Centro, the old city center, and Zona Rosa, the new business and entertainment district.
The city is located 2200 m above mean sea level. Some people have breathing difficulties at high places and have experienced difficulty when breathing. The altitude is equivalent to more than 7,200 ft. This is far higher than any metropolitan area in the United States. If you live closer to sea level, you may experience difficulty breathing due to altitude and pollution. Air quality has, however, been improved in the last few years.
Mexico City's night life is like all other aspects of the city; it is huge. There is an enormous selection of venues: clubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, and variations and combinations thereof to choose from. There is incredible variation, from ultramodern lounges in Santa Fe and Reforma, to centuries-old dance halls in Centro and Roma. There are also pubs in Tlalpan and Coyoacán and clubs of every stripe in Insurgentes, Polanco, Condesa and the Zona Rosa.
Also, when going out, check the date, since this is an important indicator of how full places will generally be and how long you might have to wait to get in. Salaries are usually paid twice per month: the 30th/31st-1st and the 14th-15th. On or soon after these dates is when most Mexicans will go out, especially if payday coincides with a weekend. In the more expensive places, people might leave for Acapulco or vacations farther afield during the summer and long weekends. Mexican weekends, in the sense of when it is common to go out drinking, are Thursday night to Sunday morning and sometimes throughout Sunday.
The origins of Mexico City date back to 1325, when the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan was founded and later destroyed in 1521 by Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortes. The city served as the capital of the Vice-royalty of New Spain until the outbreak of the Independence War in 1810. The city became the capital of the Mexican Empire in 1821 and of the Mexican Republic in 1823 after the abdication of Agustin de Iturbide. During the Mexico-US war in 1847, the city was invaded by the American army. In 1864 the French invaded Mexico and the emperor Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg ruled the country from the Castillo de Chapultepec and ordered to build Avenue of the Empress (today's Paseo de la Reforma promenade).
Porfirio Díaz assumed power in 1876 and left an outstanding mark in the city with many European styled buildings such as the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Palacio Postal. Diaz was overthrown in 1910 with the Mexican Revolution and this marked a radical change in the city's architecture. The 20th century saw the uncontrolled growth of the City beyond the Centro Historico with the influx of thousands of immigrants from the rest of the country. In 1968, the city was host to the Olympic Games, which saw the construction of the Azteca Stadium, the Palacio de los Deportes, the Olympic Stadium and other sports facilities. In 1985 the city suffered an 8.1 Magnitude earthquake. Between 10,000 and 40,000 people were killed. 412 buildings collapsed and another 3,124 buildings were seriously damaged in the city.
Mexico City ranks 8th in terms of GDP size among 30 world cities. More than a third of the total Mexican economy is concentrated here. The size of its economy is US $315 billion, that's compared to $1.1 trillion for New York City and $575 billion for Chicago. Mexico City is the wealthiest city in all of Latin America, with a GDP per capita of $25,258. Mexico City's poverty rate is also the lowest in all of Mexico, however, it should be noted that Mexico itself is only about the 65th richest country in the world out of 184 countries. Mexico City's Human Development Index (2009-MHDI) is the highest in Mexico at 0.9327. It is home to the Mexican Stock Exchange. Most of the large local and multinational corporations are headquartered here, mainly in the Polanco and Santa Fe districts.
Mexico City weather is divided in two seasons, dry season , from November to April, and the rainy season from May to October. Spring months are warm, while the summer months can vary from light to heavy rains especially in the late afternoon. Dawn in the Fall and winter get really cold, but with an amazingly clear sky. Temperatures range from 0°C in late October, November, December and January mornings, to 32°C in March, April and May during mid-day highs.
The city sits in a valley surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, which results in poor air circulation and a tendency for air pollutants to stagnate over the city. Due to the extremely rapid pace of urbanization in the twentieth century little consideration was given to environmental planning. By 1987, air quality had deteriorated so much that one day thousands of birds appeared dead on the sidewalks of the city. Environmentalists attributed this to air pollution. This shocking event encouraged authorities to implement measures to improve air quality. Most heavy industries (glass, car and steel factories) and oil refineries were relocated outside of the city and unleaded vehicle fuels were introduced.
Today, the air quality is in much better. Ozone and carbon dioxide levels are falling. Although the smog layer is visible nearly every day, its effects in terms of breathing and eye irritation are barely noticeable and it should not be cause for concern for visitors. Pollution is in maximum effect in the hot, dry season of spring, from late February to early May and there is a greenhouse effect that appears during winter from late November to early February. You can check the current air quality on the Atmospheric Monitoring System website . This government body established an index denominated IMECA (Metropolitan Index for Air Quality) in order to make the population aware of the current air pollution situation.
When the index exceeds 170 points, an "Environmental pre-contingency" is issued and people are asked to refrain from performing open-air activities such as sports. In the case of an "Environmental Contingency," only vehicles with a zero or double zero emissions sticker can circulate.
The catastrophic earthquake of 8.1 magnitude on the Richter scale, that took place in the morning of September 19, 1985, killing 9,000 to 30,000 people, remains fresh in the memory of the majority of Mexico City's inhabitants. Since the city was established in the dry bed of lake Texcoco and several geological faults that originate in the Pacific coast reach the city, earthquakes are a common phenomenon. Right after the 1985 earthquake, many constructions were reinforced and new buildings are designed to meet structural criteria by law and no major building collapse has happened since, even after several strong earthquakes. You can check the latest earthquake activity at the National Earthquake Center  an institute of the National University (UNAM). Should you happen to be in the middle of an earthquake, remain calm and follow some simple rules: if you are indoors, stay under the doorways, move away from objects that can fall, and/or follow exit paths ("Rutas de Evacuación") out to the streets; if you are outdoors, move away from slopes or electrical wires towards open areas or marked "safe zones."
With a population of more than 20 million in the greater metropolitan area, you can expect to find all kinds of people in Mexico City, in terms of racial, sexual, political, cultural and wealth diversity. Citizens are mostly Mestizo (people of mixed European and Amerindian racial background) and white. Amerindian people constitute less than one percent of the city's population, but there are some who are still moving to the city in search of opportunities. As elsewhere in Latin America, socioeconomic status tends to be highly correlated with ethnicity in Mexico City: by and large, the upper and middle classes have more European ancestry than the poor and the lower classes.
The city, as the rest of the country, has a very unequal distribution of wealth that can be characterized geographically, generally speaking, as follows: the middle and upper classes tend to live in the west of the city (concentrated in the delegaciones of Benito Juarez, Miguel Hidalgo, Coyoacan, Tlalpan, Cuajimalpa and Alvaro Obregon). The east of the city, most notably Iztapalapa (the most populous delegacion) is much poorer. The same applies to municipalities of greater Mexico City (Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, Chalco, Chimalhuacán). Although there are pockets of poverty everywhere (and often side by side with the shiny-glitzy condos of the nouveau riche, like in Santa Fe in Cuajimalpa), it is easily noticeable that as one travels east the buildings begin to look more shabby and the people look increasingly browner--a testimony to Mexico's heritage of racial and socioeconomic inequality.
Since it is a big city, it is the home of large foreign communities, like Cubans, Spaniards, Americans, Japanese, Chilean, Lebanese, and more recently Argentines and Koreans. Mexico City has a number of ethnic districts with restaurants and shops that cater to groups such as Chinese and Lebanese Mexicans.
It is the temporary home to many expats too, working here for the many multinational companies operating in Mexico. Foreigners of virtually any ethnic background may not get a second look if they dress conservatively and attempt to speak Spanish.
Mexico City is one of the most liberal cities in Latin America, and was the first jurisdiction in the region to legalize same-sex marriage (in December 2009). As such, this is generally a gay friendly city, particularly in the Zona Rosa District. Abortion on demand is also legal, as well as euthanasia and prostitution (the latter allowed only in designated districts).
Although Mexico City is considered an expensive city, your trip budget will depend on your lifestyle and way of traveling, as you can find cheap and expensive prices for almost everything. Public transportation is very cheap and there are many affordable places to eat. On the other hand you can find world-class hotels and fancy restaurants with higher prices. A daily backpacker budget for transportation and meals should range between 100 to 200 pesos a day (10 to 20 USD), using public transport and eating at street stands, while a more comfortable budget should range between 200 to 500 pesos a day (20 to 50 USD) using private taxis (taxi de sitio) and eating at decent sit-down restaurants. For those with more expendable cash, you can find plenty of outlets for your dollars, euros, pounds, yen...etc.
The addressing system is fairly simple has the street name, house number, colonia (neighborhood), city, state and postal code. Many are confused by the fact that the house number comes after the street name, unlike in the US and some other countries where the number precedes the street.
In Mexico City the street and neighborhoods have been named after an important person or a specific place like Porfirio Díaz Street and Santa Martha de Axtlahuacan Colonia. A typical address could be something like this: Colima 15, Colonia Roma Norte, Mexico, Distrito Federal, 06760. The european house numbering applies generally, having ordered odd and even numbers on each side of the street respectively.
Although some compact flash cards can be found at several different locations, don't expect to find exactly what you are looking for. Look for stores such as Radio Shack, Office Depot, Office Max, Best Buy or Wal-Mart. Prices tend to be on the high end, but they are still affordable. You could also try some of the places that are dedicated to selling photographic equipment, they are easily identified because you will see the street signs for well known brand names. It is not unusual, however, for high-end camera retailers to offer few if any accessories.
You can print your photos at most of the major chains of pharmacies around town, look for Farmacias Benavides, Farmacias Guadalajara or Farmacias del Ahorro (with a white 'A' inside a red circle). Prices differ from store to store. Also, while near the Zocalo on the street Republica de Brasil, many people standing on the side of the sidewalk will verbally advertise "imprentas." They are offering stationery printing services, not photographic printing.
For people who love to do street photography, a good place to start is in front of the Bellas Artes square, during afternoons. There is a smorgasbord of faces cutting across the square and perching on one of the benches for an hour will easily give you access to photography fodder. Many urchins and ethnic street dwellers have learned to ask for money before allowing you to shoot them. Sympathize and accept it as it is worth it.
Keep in mind that some museums, like the Museum of National History in the Chapultepec, charge an extra fee for those with video cameras. Also in most museums, flash photography is not permitted.
Benito Juarez International Airport
Most travelers arrive to Mexico City by air, to the Benito Juárez International Airport (IATA: MEX, ICAO: MMMX) , located in the eastern part of the city. The airport has two terminals, T1 and T2 being the latter mostly used for Sky Team airlines. There's an exhaustive list of airline/terminal combinations on the Wikipedia entry at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexico_city_airport.
The two terminals are connected by a bus line and a light rail system, which is significantly faster than the bus. Note: For some reason, you can only board the light rail if you have a flight boarding pass or ticket stub from your arriving flight. Tough luck if you have an eticket and haven't printed your boarding pass or if you're travelling to terminal 2 to meet sombody.
There are frequent flights to and from most larger cities in the world, as Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Santiago de Chile, Lima, London, Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt, Chicago, Toronto, and Tokyo. Some of the international airlines that operate regular flights to Mexico City include: Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air France, Alaska Airlines , American Airlines, Avianca, British Airways, Copa, Cubana de Aviacion, Delta , Iberia, KLM, LAN, Lufthansa, TACA, United Airlines, US Airways, and Southwest.
Your airline will only let you board your flight to Mexico, if you have a valid return ticket. Your carrier might not tell you this until you're just about to board. If you plan on, say, driving out of Mexico, or leaving on a cruise ship, make sure you check this out well in advance. One way around the problem is to buy a second full price refundable ticket that you don't intend to use and then get a refund as soon as you arrive (or before you leave, as long as you have the original paperwork to show at the jetway). In most major US airports, they'll sell you this 'token' ticket at the jetway. Airline staff in the boarding area help travellers with this problem every day. There're no ticket sales offices at Benito Juarez, you'll have arrange your refund by phone. Make sure you'll have access to a phone that allows international calls. Get a refund number from the phone agent, this being Mexico, everything always goes wrong, but never in your favour!
The airport used to have a plane spotting area but it was closed in 2008 when the airport went through an intensive modernization.
If you arrive on an international flight, you will go through Immigration, luggage retrieval and then Customs. Make sure you fill in all forms prior to landing to make this an expedite process. Sometimes, the airline will hand them out on the flight. There is a 300-dollar duty allowance that include new clothing, tobacco and liquors. The Mexican customs law allows passengers to bring free of duties a laptop, an MP3 player, a digital camera, a tripod, a video camera, and used clothing. Be careful with iPads, as they are sometimes considered laptops. If you have brought a laptop and an iPad, customs may consider this two laptops and refuse to allow entry with both.
You will also be required to fill out a Migratory Form for Foreign Tourist, Transmigrant, Business Visitor or Council Visitor which must be stamped by the customs officer, who will give you an absolute number of days for your visa (up to three months). This form has a bar code on it and a blue stripe across the top saying "Estados Unidos Mexicanos." Be sure not to lose this form as without it, you might not be able to leave the country. If you lose or misplace it during the visit, you must visit the immigration office at the airport to fill out a new one. If you plead ignorance, they may let it go, but normally, there's a 440-peso fine.
After going through customs you will pick up your luggage, and most often you will need to show the security guard your luggage tag that matches the tag on your suitcase(s). You will then line up for baggage screening where you will place your bags on a belt, and 'for your safety' your luggage will be x-rayed. At this stage, if you've exceeded the Baggage and Duty Free Allowance, the officers will charge duty on your excess possessions. For example if you have 3 spendy cameras, they'll charge duty on the 3rd camera. They're particularly zealous about electronic components they don't recognise. Be prepared for this unpleasantness. If possible have a receipt or packing list and depreciate the value shown as much as possible. You can check out the baggage allowance at: http://www.aduanas.gob.mx/aduana_mexico/2008/pasajeros/139_10178.html. Finally, before exiting to the arrivals hall, you will be directed to press a button that results in either a red or green light. The red means they will search your luggage, the green means you can go.
If you are taking a connecting flight to another location and the bags are already tagged for their final destination, you will drop them on a belt located to the right of the inspection tables. If tagged to Mexico City only, you will need to check in again with the airline. Foreign travellers using connecting flights from Mexico City are sometimes required to pass through customs again when they reach their final destination.
The entire process, from when the plane arrives to when you are done with customs, usually takes about an hour. After completing customs, you will go through large doors to the waiting area for international arrivals. Be prepared to see a lot of people in this area. It is a custom for families to pick up their loved ones at the airport and the hall is rather small for a city of its size.
In a fine bit of job creation, you can't use an airport baggage trolley to push your own luggage through the arrivals hall. Your trolley will be agressively taken from you just outside the secure area. There are carriers who will offer to carry your luggage. This is a service authorized by the airport and is safe--they will be uniformed with white shirts, navy blue tie and dark blue pants and will carry a wheelie (or keep it nearby) with the union logo on it. There is no fixed price for this service, but 15-25 pesos should be fine, unless you are traveling in a group or have a lot of bags.
The airport rarely offers the best rates for converting your currency. However there are many currency changers, some offering better rates than others or not charging a commission. The converter near Gate E1, in the arrival wing, usually offers the best rate.
The airport offers a service of licensed and secure taxis known as Taxis Amarillos, Yellow Cab Aeropuerto  or Transportacion Terrestre . These cabs are white and yellow with black airplane stickers on the doors. You should buy a ticket in the marked counters inside the airport. You can ask one of the wheelie guys who will take you and your luggage to the Taxi counter for "Taxi Seguro" or "Boleto de Taxi". Be sure to get the detachable piece of the ticket back. Prices range from 100 to 300 Pesos for the taxi service, depending on the size of the car and the zone of the city you are going to. A drawing of a car on the ticket will tell you what type of car the ticket is valid for. Some ticket vendors are known to sell more expensive tickets for huge vans to single persons with moderate amounts of luggage.
The Terminal 1 taxi boarding area is outside Puerto 10, to the right of all the arrivals halls. The different taxi company ranks are different distances from the terminal. If you're meeting somebody with mobility problems, check out in advance which cab company stand is nearest the terminal.
If you are looking for a more economical means of transportation and you're not carrying too much luggage, take the Metro (Subway). The Terminal Aerea station is next to the Domestic Flight Arrivals hall in Terminal 1. Go to the left when coming out from Terminal 1 International Arrivals. See map  for information. It is a bit hard to find the Metro station, so be prepared to do some detective work, and keep an eye out for the orange 1970s style M designating the entrance. It's also a long walk. The station's not geared up for travellers with luggage, there are lots of stairs and no escalators or wide gates for luggage.
Metro tickets cost 3 pesos each. Don't try paying with the 500 peso note you've just received at the exchange bureau. Realize that the Metro has its own risks. Pick-pocketing is a moderate danger here so be aware of your surroundings, and keep an eye on your belongings. Especially, don't take the Metro during rush hour unless you are especially fond of the sensation a sardine has in a tin. See below for more information about riding the Metro.
Beware that there are some stations with bad signing and with few maps available. Study your route before venturing in the Metro. Try to avoid peak hours: remember that approximately 4 million people use this service every day.
If your arriving flight is in Terminal 2 you will need to take the light rail Aerotrén or the airport shuttle to Terminal 1. White shuttles with a white and red checkered design on the back provide free inter-terminal transport (you can find them at Puerta 6 in T1 and Puerta 4 in T2). There are also red buses that travel between the terminals, but charge a fee. It is possible to reach the Pantitlán metro station from T2 by walking east on Eje 1 Norte. This highway can be very crowded and potentially dangerous, especially for the obvious tourist.
Long distance buses (or coaches) from the airport go to Querataro, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Cuernavaca, Toluca, Veracruz and Cordoba.
Licenciado Adolfo López Mateos International Airport
This airport (IATA: TLC, ICAO: MMTO) is in the City of Toluca 50 km southwest of Mexico City and recently transformed itself from a general aviation airport into the hub of several domestic low-cost carriers such as Interjet and Volaris which serve destinations as Monterrey, Cancún, Guadalajara, Tijuana, and many other Mexican cities. As of September 2009, Toluca is served internationally by Spirit Airlines from Fort Lauderdale and Dallas as well as by Interjet from San Antonio. Reaching the Toluca airport is not easy, You will need to drive your own car or hire a taxi, which can be expensive.
Depending on your overall trip, it might also be worth considering flying to nearby cities as Cuernavaca (CVJ) and Puebla (PBC), but reaching Mexico City from these places could be quite tiresome and expensive.
Although most of foreign travelers will reach Mexico City by air, it is also possible to arrive by bus. Greyhound offers several connecting routes from the United States to the border cities and it is possible to buy one single ticket from many major cities in the U.S. to Mexico. Grupo Estrella, a partner with Greyhound offers service from the U.S. border down to Mexico City and anywhere in between. Traveling by bus in Mexico is comfortable compared to other countries, since many Mexicans used to travel by bus until the recent introduction of several low-cost airlines. From Central America (Guatemala) King Quality and Ticabus lines go only to Tapachula where passengers transfer to Grupo ADO to get to Mexico City.
There are four major bus station in Mexico City based on the compass directions:
Note: Traffic in and around the TAPO area (and any other bus terminal for that matter) can get quite congested during peak/rush hours. Always give yourself an extra hour or so in travel time, including to/from, to be sure that you do not miss a bus or a connection.
The below are the major bus lines going between Mexico City and various destinations in the country:
Passenger train services unfortunately ceased operating in Mexico over ten years ago, and only freight trains ride to and around Mexico City. Nowadays only one passenger train route is operating. This is the Chihuahua Pacífico route between Chihuahua and Los Mochis, crossing through the Sierra & the Copper Canyon. From Mexico City's Buenavista train station, the Ferrocarriles de Suburano goes up to Cuautitlan. Plans are underway to expand the commuter rail system.
Mexico City is a huge place, but driving is definitely not a way to see it even if tourist attractions are scattered throughout the city. A good way to plan your trip is to stop by Guia Roji  to identify the location of the "Colonias" (neighborhoods) you intend to visit. You may also try Google Maps and Map24 , to find addresses and even look for directions.
Mexico City has several public transport alternatives. Metro is reliable and runs underground, the city government operates the RTP bus system and Electric Trolley buses. There are also plenty of franchised private buses which are less reliable and safe because of their driving habits. And finally thousands of taxis, many of them old Volkswagen bugs formerly painted in their famous green paint scheme and called verditos, or little green ones. Now, these are simply vocho taxis in the maroon and gold colors now required of all taxis. Official taxis have a red box in the center lower area of their license plates that reads TAXI. Only use these taxis, sitio taxis or have a hotel call you a taxi for safety reasons.
There are at least two websites available for planning trips within the city. Buscaturuta  ("Busca Tu Ruta," or "Find Your Route"), which serves all of Mexico, uses a Google Maps interface and allows you to search with incomplete addresses. It will give you options for traveling by public transit, taxi, car, or bicycle. Via DF  is only for Mexico City proper and requires complete addresses, including delegacion  and colonia . It's available in English, German, French and Spanish.
Officially named Sistema de Transporte Colectivo, but known simply as Metro , it is one of the largest and most used subway systems in the world, comprised by 11 different lines that measure more than 170 km and carry 4.4 million people every day. You'll quickly see how busy it is, particularly during the day: trains are often filled to significantly over capacity, and sometimes it will be hot and uncomfortable. Despite the close quarters, it's relatively quick and efficient, especially as an alternative to taxis during rush hours when the streets are essentially parking lots, and affordable (tickets for one trip with unlimited transfers within the system cost 3 pesos). Trains run every couple of minutes, so if you just miss it, you won't have long to wait until another arrives, and the Metro can be the quickest way to travel longer distances within the city. Stations usually have food stalls inside and outside the entrances, and many have city-sponsored exhibits and artwork on display, so it's good even for a look around. Operating hours are from 5AM to midnight on weekdays (starts at 6AM on Saturday and 7AM on Sunday), so if your plans will keep you out beyond midnight, be sure to have alternate means of transport.
Although the Metro lacks informational signs in English, the system was originally designed with illiteracy in mind, so finding your way around should not be a problem. Lines are defined by number but also by a color, and that color runs as a thematic band across the entire station and along the entire route, so you always know what line you are on. Stations are identified by name but also by a pictorial icon that represents that area in some way. However, even with this user-friendly approach, entire maps of the Metro system are not posted everywhere that you'd like. They're usually only near ticket booths; there are no maps on the trains and only or two are posted per platform, so work out your route before going through the turnstiles, and have a Metro map on you. Trains and platforms do have a line diagram with icons and transfer points for easy reference.
Some lines run through more tourist-related spots than others and will become very familiar to you after a while. Line 1 (pink) runs through many tourist spots, such as Centro Historico (Salto del Agua and Isabel la Catolica stations), the Chapultepec Forest (Chapultepec Station), Condesa and Roma neighborhoods (Insurgentes and Sevilla stations) and the Northwest Bus Station (Observatorio station). Line 2 (blue) runs through the Centro Historico (Allende, Zocalo and Bellas Artes stations) and reaches the South Bus Station (Tasqueña). Line 7 (orange) runs through many touristic spots such as the Chapultepec Forest (Auditorio Station) and the Polanco neighborhood (Polanco Station). Line 9 (brown) runs near the Condesa neighborhood (Chilpancingo). Line 3 (green) runs near Coyoacan (Coyoacan and Miguel Angel de Quevedo stations) and also near the City University (Copilco and Ciudad Universitaria stations). If traveling to and from the airport, you'll use Line 5 (yellow) to connect to the Mexico City International Airport (Terminal Aerea station, not Hangares nor Boulevard Puerto Areo of line 1). Line 6 (red) runs east-west to the north of the city and runs next to the Basílica de Guadalupe.
Here are a few of the commonly-used Metro signs translated into English:
As you enter a Metro station, look for the ticket booth. There might be a short queue for tickets, and to avoid having to always stand in line, many people buy a small handful of tickets at a time. A sign is posted by the ticket window that shows how much it would cost for any number of tickets. Once you approach the agent, simply drop some money into the tray and announce (in Spanish) how many tickets you would like ("uno" for MX$3, "cinco" for MX$15, "diez" for MX$30, and so on). You do not need to say anything about where you are going, since fares are the same for everywhere in the system.
Once you have your ticket (boleto) it is time to go through the turnstiles (but make sure to confirm your route on a map first!). The stiles are clearly marked for exit or entry but if you are confused, simply follow the crowd. Insert the ticket into the slot (it does not matter which direction is up or forward) and a small display will flash, indicating you may proceed. You won't get the ticket back. A few frequent Metro users use keycards instead of tickets, so if you see any turnstiles marked with "solo tarjeta" that means the ticket reader is broken; just move to another turnstile.
Past the turnstiles, signs that tell you where to go depending on your direction within the Line are usually clearly marked, as are signs that tell you where to transfer to a different Line. There is no standard station layout, but they are all designed to facilitate vast amounts of human traffic, so following the crowd works well, as long you double check the signs to make sure the crowd is taking you in the same direction.
On the platform, try to stand near the edge. During rush hours when it can get pretty crowded, there is sometimes a mad rush on and off the train. Although for the most part people are respectful and usually let departing passengers off first, train doors are always threatening to close and that means you need to be moderately aggressive if you don't want to get left behind. If you're traveling in a group, this could mean having to travel separately. At the ends of the platform, the train is usually less crowded, so you could wait there, but during rush hours some busier stations reserve those sections of platform exclusively for women and children for their safety.
While on the train, you will see a steady stream of people walking through the carriages announcing their wares for sale. Act as if you are used to them (that is, ignore them, unless they need to pass you). Most often you'll see the city's blind population make their living by selling pirate music CD's, blaring their songs through amplifiers carried in a backpack. There are people who "perform" (such as singing, or repeatedly somersaulting shirtless onto a pile of broken glass) and expect a donation. There are also people who hand out candy or snacks between stops, and if you eat it or keep it you are expected to pay for it; if you don't want it, they'll take it back before the next stop. It can be quite amusing, or sad at times, but don't laugh or be disrespectful... this is how they make a living. The best thing to do is observing how others around you behave, but you can usually just avoid eye contact with these merchants and they will leave you alone.
If the merchants weren't enough, the trains are usually just crowded places to be. You will usually not get seats if you are traveling through the city center during the day, and even if you do, it's considered good manners to offer your seat to the aged, pregnant or disabled, as all cars have clearly marked handicap seats. In keeping with the mad rush on and off the train, people will move toward the exits before the train stops, so let them through and feel free to do the same when you need to (a "con permiso" helps, but body language speaks the loudest here).
A few words of warning: there have been incidences of pickpocketing. Keep your belongings close to you; if you have bags, close them and keep them in sight. As long as you are alert and careful you won't have any problems. Women have complained of being groped on extremely crowded trains; this is not a problem on designated women's wagons, or any other time than rush hour. If theft or any other sort of harassment do occur, you can stop the train and attract the attention of the authorities by pulling on alarms near the doors, which are labeled "señal de alarma."
When exiting, follow the crowd through signs marked Salida. Many stations have multiple exits to different streets (or different sides of streets, marked with a cardinal direction) and should have posted road maps that show the immediate area with icons for banks, restaurants, parks and so forth. Use these to orient yourself and figure out where you need to go. A good tip is to remember what side of the tracks you are on, these are marked in such maps with a straight line the color of the metro line you are traveling.
There are two kinds of buses. The first, are full-sized buses operated by the City Government known as RTP  and cost $2 anywhere you go. Make sure to pay with exact change as they don't give change back. The second kind of buses are known as "Microbuses" or "Peseros". These buses are private-run and come in small and bigger sizes, all rather ominous looking. Peseros cost 3.00 pesos for shorter trips, 3.50 for 6-12 km trips and 4 pesos for 12+ km trips. Full-sized private buses are 3.50 pesos for shorter trips, and 4.50 for longer trips.
Both type of buses usually stop at the same places, which are totally random and unmarked stops just before intersections. Routes are also very complex and flexible, so be sure to ask someone, perhaps the driver, if the bus even goes to your destination, before getting on. Also, though the locals hang off the sides and out the doors, it is generally not recommended for novices. Riding RTP buses is probably a safer and more comfortable way than the private franchised and smaller microbuses who are known to have terrible driving habits. All buses display signs on their windshields which tell major stops they make, so if you want to take a bus to a metro station, you can just wait for a bus that has a sign with an M followed by the station name.
Established in June 2005, the Metrobús operates in dedicated lanes along Insurgentes and Eje 4 Avenues. Plans exist for additional routes. It costs 5 pesos to ride, but a card must be bought in advance (15 pesos) at vending machines. There are stops approximately every 500m. Expect it to be crowded around the clock, but its a great way to get up and down these two major thoroughfares very rapidly. While the Metrobús operates only in this two avenues, you must check the bus’ billboard before boarding to see which is the last stop they will visit, for some don't go from end to end of the line. There are reserved areas (indicated on the platforms) for women.
By trolley bus
"Trolebuses"  are operated by the Electric Transport Services. There are 15 Trolley bus lines that spread around for more than 400 km. They usually do not get as crowded as regular buses, and they are quite comfortable and reliable. They can be a little slower than regular buses, since they are unable to change lanes as quickly. There is a flat fare of 4 pesos, and bus drivers do not give out change.
By light rail
The Tren Ligero  is operated by Electric Transport Services and consists of one single line that runs south of the city, connecting with Metro station Tasqueña (Line 2, blue; alternatively you may see it spelled as Taxqueña). For tourists, it is useful if you plan to visit Xochimilco or the Azteca stadium. The rate for a single ride is 3 pesos, and while the ticketing system works very similarly to the Metro, the tickets are not the same. You must purchase light rail tickets separately; they are sold at most stations along the line.
There are more than 250,000 registered cabs in the city and they are one of the most efficient ways to get around. The prices are low, a fixed fee of about 6 pesos to get into the cab, and about 0.7 pesos per quarter kilometer or 45 seconds thereafter, for the normal taxis (taxi libre). The night rates, supposedly between 11PM at night and 6AM in the morning are about 20% higher. Some taxis "adjust" their meters to run more quickly, but in general, cab fare is cheap, and it's usually easy to find a taxi. At night, and in areas where there are few taxis, cab drivers will often not use the meter, but rather quote you a price before you get in. This price will often be high, however, you can haggle. They will tell you that their price is good because they are "safe". If you don't agree on the price, don't worry as another cab will come along.
Although safety has in recent years substantially improved, catching cabs in the street may be dangerous. Taxi robberies, so-called "express kidnappings", where the victim is robbed and then taken on a trip to various ATMs to max out their credit cards, do sometimes occur, but there are some general precautions that will minimize the risk:
Mexico City is so large, and many street names so common that cab drivers are highly unlikely to know where to go when you give only a name or address of your destination. Always include either the name of the colonia or the district (i.e. "Zona Rosa"), as well as any nearby landmarks or cross streets. You will probably be asked to give directions throughout or at least near the tail end of the journey; if either your Spanish or your sense of direction is poor, carry a map and be prepared to point.
The two most common recommendations for a safe cab riding experience are to make sure you take an official cab, and to notify a person you trust of the license plate number of the cab you are riding. There is a free app available for iphone, andriod and Blackberry (soon) that allows you to verify if a cab is official by comparing the taxi license plate number with the government provided data and that lets you communicate through facebook, twitter and/or email the license plate number of the cab you have taken or even communicte an emergency through these mediums. The free service is called Taxiaviso .
The Turibus  is a sightseeing double-decker hop-in hop-off bus that is a good alternative to see the city if you don't have too much time. The one-day ticket costs $125 pesos (around USD $10) and its route includes the Zona Rosa, Chapultepec Park, Polanco, Condesa, Roma and the Historic Center. There is a secondary route which just started in late May 2007, and runs from Fuente de la Cibeles in Condesa to Coyoacan and Xochimilco. Your ticket should be valid for both routes.
If you get lost
If you get absolutely lost and you are far away from your hotel, hop into a pesero (mini bus) or bus that takes you to a Metro station ; most of them do. Look for the sign with the stylized metro "M" in the front window. From there and using the wall maps you can get back to a more familiar place.
Driving around by car is the least advised way to visit the city due to the complicated road structure, generally reckless drivers, and the 3.5 million vehicles moving around the city. Traffic jams are almost omnipresent on weekdays, and driving from one end of the city to the other could take you between 2 to 4 hours at peak times. The condition of pavement in freeways such as Viaducto and Periferico is good, however in avenues, streets and roads varies from fair to poor since most streets have fissures, bumps and holes. Most are paved with asphalt and only until recently some have been paved using concrete. Since the city grew without planned control, the street structure resembles a labyrinth in many areas. Also, traffic 'laws' are complex and rarely followed, so driving should be left to only the most adventurous and/or foolhardy. Driving can turn into a really challenging experience if you don't know precisely well where are you going. There is only one company that has been able to map the entire city, Guia Roji . Shortcuts are complicated and often involve about six to eight turns.
Street parking (Estacionamiento in Spanish) is scarce around the City and practically nonexistent in crowded areas. Where available expect to pay between $12 to $18 pesos an hour while most of hotels charge between $25 to $50 pesos an hour. Some areas of the city such as Zona Rosa, Chapultepec, Colonia Roma and Colonia Condesa have parking meters on the sidewalks which are about $10 pesos an hour and are free on weekends. It is possible to park in other streets without meters but is likely there will be a "parking vendor" (Franelero in Spanish) which are not authorized by the city, but will "take care of your car". Expect to pay between $10 to $20 pesos to these fellows, some of them will "charge" at your arrival, the best advice is to pay if you want to see your car in good shape when you come back.
Hoy No Circula (Today You Do Not Circulate) is an extremely important anti-traffic and anti-pollution program that all visitors including foreigners must take into consideration when wishing to drive through Mexico City and nearby Mexico State with their foreign-plated vehicles, as they are not immune to these restrictions. It limits vehicle circulation to certain restricted hours during the day depending on the last digit of your plate number (plates with all letters are automatically assigned a digit). Currently, Mexico City, but not the State of Mexico, offers a special pass good for 2 weeks, that allows someone with a foreign-plated vehicle to be exempt from these restrictions.  Excellent details of how the program works for locals and foreigners is found at the following link: .
The visitor should take into consideration the following tips when driving: avenues have preference over streets and streets over closed streets. Continuous right turn even when traffic light red is allowed. Seat belts are mandatory for both front seats. Police generally drive with their lights on, but if you're stopped by a police car, it is likely they will try to get money out from you. It is up to you if you accept to do so, the latest government sponsored trend is to refuse giving them anything.
Downtown Mexico City has been an urban area since the pre-Columbian 12th century, and the city is filled with historical buildings and landmarks from every epoch since then. It is also known as the City of Palaces, because of the large number of stately buildings, especially in the Centro. In addition, Mexico is the city with the largest number of museums in the world (without taking into account art galleries), with New York #2, London #3 and Toronto #4.
Mexico City is full of various plazas and parks scattered through every neighborhood, but the following are some of the biggest, prettiest, most interesting, or best-known.
Mexico is the city with the largest number of museums in the world, to name some of the most popular:
As the world's second largest city, Mexico City offers something for everyone and for every budget. Attractions in Mexico City focus less on lazing on the beach (there are no beaches in Mexico City!) and more on exploring the culture and urban culture of Mexico. The typical "must-see" sites for the foreign visitor are the sites of interest in and around Centro Historico and Chapultepec Park, a visit to the ruins of Teotihuacan in the outskirts of the City and probably a visit to Xochimilco, though there are many other things to see if you have time to really explore.
If you're into sports, then Mexico City has plenty to offer. Soccer is a favorite sport and Mexicans go crazy about it. The city was host to two FIFA world cups, one in 1970 and the other in 1986. Another important sport in Mexico City is baseball, with many Mexicans playing professionally in the US. The city has been the only Latin American host to an Olympiade in 1968, when the majority of the city's sport facilities were built.
Like many other things in the country, Mexico City has the largest concentration of universities and colleges, starting with the UNAM, one of the finest in Latin America and the oldest university in the American continent, founded in 1551.
Some of the most renowned universities in the city include:
You can learn Spanish in Mexico City as there are various schools offering courses for foreigners, for example:
Mexico has very strict immigration laws. In order to work you should obtain a permit known as FM2 or FM3 which is very hard to get unless you're marrying a Mexican citizen or you are an expat working for a multinational company. Most foreigners working without a permit perform jobs such as language teachers, waiters or salesmen. Others own a restaurant or shop. If you're working without a permit and an immigration officer finds out, it could mean a fine, deportation or spending some time in a detention facility of the National Immigration Institute.
Mexico City is famous among Mexicans for its huge malls, streets like Presidente Mazaryk offer haute couture stores.
American-style shopping malls appeared in Mexico City by the late 1960’s and are now are spread all over the metropolitan area surpassing even the largest malls of the United States. Here you will find most of the fashion malls sorted by area.
Arts and Crafts
Flea and Antique Markets
Although street vendors can be found almost anywhere in Mexico City, the following are more "formal" flea markets selling handcrafts, furniture and antiques.
If you're staying longer you may want to buy groceries and food at any of the hundreds of Supermarkets. These are some of the most common:
Ethnic Grocery Stores
For generally hard-to-find ingredients, such as vegetables and spices that are unusual in Mexico, try the Mercado de San Juan  (Ernesto Pugibet street, Salto del Agua metro station). You can even find exotic meats here, such as iguana, alligator, ostrich, and foie gras. Go to the cheese stand at the center of the market, and ask for a sample— the friendly owner will give you bread, wine, and samples of dozens of different kinds of cheese.
Many food products in Mexico including milk are kosher compliant. If you're looking for specific products, try some stores in the Polanco neighborhood. At some Superama branches you would find kosher departments, especially the ones in Polanco, Tecamachalco and Santa Fe neighborhoods.
Although it is easy to assume that Mexico City is the world capital of tacos, you can find almost any kind of food in this city. There are regional specialties from all over Mexico as well as international cuisine, including Japanese, Chinese, French, Polish, Italian, Argentinean, Belgian, Irish, you name it. The main restaurant areas are located in Polanco, Condesa, Centro, Zona Rosa, along Avenida Insurgentes from Viaducto to Copilco and more recently Santa Fe.
For superb Mexican cuisine you can try El Cardenal (Sheraton Centro Histórico), Los Girasoles (Tacuba 8), Aguila y Sol (Emilio Castelar 229), Izote (Masaryk 513) and, for something more affordable, Café Tacuba (Tacuba 28). Another great experience is to dine in an old converted hacienda: try Hacienda de los Morales (Vázquez de Mella 525), San Angel Inn (Diego Rivera 50) or Antigua Hacienda de Tlalpan (Calzada de Tlalpan 4619).
There are Mexican chain restaurants that can be assumed to be safe and similar no matter where you are, including Vips, Toks, and the more traditional Sanborns, all reminiscent of Denny's in the United States. You can expect to pay between $100 to $150 per person. If you're on a budget, you can also try one of the myriad comida corrida (set menu) restaurants, frequented by many office workers. Most of these offer very good food, are usually safe, and should range between $35 to $60.
Perhaps the most ubiquitous type of food almost anywhere in Mexico city are fast food outlets, located on the ground floor of a street-facing building, or puestas, street stands located on a sidewalk or almost anywhere there is room. These serve the usual tacos, burritos or tortas (filled bread rolls similar to a sub or sandwich), and they can be very cheap ($10 to $50). The Taquería Aguayo in Coyoacán is a superb example.
If you want to stuff your face with lots of real Mexican food at cheap prices then head over to La Merced (the central market, located on the pink line of the subway at the stop "Merced"). There are several restaurants as well as stands serving up some delicious food. Huaraches, which are something like giant tortillas with different toppings/fillings, are popular here, as are alambres.
Another superb market is located a stone's throw from the Salto del Agua metro stop; Mercado San Juan Arcos de Belem. It is full of food stalls offering all the Mexican favourites, but find the one opposite the small bakers, which is located by one of the rear entrances on Calle Delicias , which serves the Torta Cubana. The people running it are amazingly welcoming and the food, especially the Cubana, is excellent.
If you want something safe and boring, most American fast food chains have franchises here. You'll see McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza, TGI Friday's, Chili's, Dairy Queen, Subway, and yes, even Starbucks. These are all fairly affordable to Europeans/Americans and people from other richer countries but generally cost more than they do in the US, and aren't delicious.
El Globo, a French-style bakery, has locations throughout the city selling both French and traditional Mexican pastries, like orejas (little ears), eclairs, empanadas, and rosca during New Year's. It can't be beat for a quick snack or bagful of pastries to eat later.
Do not miss the chance to go to Panaderia Madrid (calle 5 de Febrero, one block south off the main plaza in downtown Mexico). This is a very old and typical bakery, they will usually have fresh bread twice a day, but if there are a lot of customers they will bake as many as four times a day.
Asian food restaurants are abundant, and the quality is good, and caters from cheap Chinese cafeterias to expensive and very good Japanese food. Note that Korean, Japanese and Chinese are most common cuisines in Mexico City, while Indian, Thai and Indonesian can be harder to find. Most sushi places, however, put far too much rice on their sushi rolls and not enough fish.
Vegetarian (vegetariano in Spanish) alternatives are commonly available at larger restaurants, but don't expect much from street vendors. The magic phrases, for vegetarians or vegans, are "sin pollo" (no chicken), "sin carne" (no meat), "sin huevo" (no eggs) and "sin queso" (no cheese). If you can communicate this and then gesticulate to the menu, the waiter normally will give you suggestions. In regular restaurants, they will even try to edit an existing dish for you. Just make sure you are clear. Chile Rellenos are a definite standard in any restaurant for the vegetarian.
Tips— Tipping (propina in Spanish) is expected, with 10% the standard for all restaurants. You can tip less or not tip at all for poor service.
In Mexico, there is no difference in prices if you sit inside or outside, it is the same if you eat at the bar or sit at a table.
"El Jarocho" (Centro Coyoacan) is an amazing place to go for coffee. They also sell pastries and other food. This place is incomparable to Starbucks. There are several locations in Coyoacan due to its evergrowing popularity.
Don't leave without trying
For a quick snack you can always try a tamal (steamed corn dough with chicken or pork) bought on the street or specialized shops, accompanied by a cup of atole (hot chocolate corn starch drink), which is the breakfast of the humble on their way to work.
The typical Mexican place to go to drink is the cantina, a bar where food is usually free, and you pay for drinks (exact policies and minimums vary). Cantinas serve a wide range of Mexican and foreign drinks, with prices usually reasonable compared to prices in the US, and you'll be continually served various Mexican food, such as tacos (you should ask for 'Botana'). If your tolerance for Mexican music (mariachi or otherwise), smoke-filled rooms, and lots of noise is low however, this may not be your kind of place. Cantinas are open moderately late, usually past midnight at the very least. However some cantinas, like La Victoria, near the Plaza Garibaldi, are also open at midday for lunch.
In Mexico City you have an almost endless choice of options to party. Traveling by yourself at night in Mexico City is not a good idea, especially in Plaza Garibaldi where pickpocketers are ever ready to relieve you of your unguarded cash. One of the ways you can check out the night life safely is by doing a Night Club Tour. These tours will typically take you to a few clubs and include transportation. Mexicans are for the most part very friendly and enjoy socializing.
In addition, there are bars that play a combination of Spanish and English-language rock, electronic music, and some Latin/Caribbean music. These bars tend to close around 3-4AM.
Club music mainly falls into three main categories, pop, rock and electronic music. The pop places generally play what's on the music charts, Latin pop, and sometimes traditional Mexican music, and are frequented by a younger (sometimes very young) audience, and are often more upper class. The rock places play rock in the wide sense, in English and Spanish. Most people are at least over 18 in these places. The electronica clubs, which attract everyone from Mexico City's large subculture of ravers and electronica fans, of all ages. Most clubs close late, 3-4AM at the earliest, and some are open until 7AM or 8AM.
The best bet used to be the Zona Rosa, which has a large number of street bars with rock bands playing and a large selection of clubs, especially strip clubs and gay bars. South of Zona Rosa you can find the Condesa area, with many options of bars and restaurants. Another good area is Polanco, particularly a street called Mazaryk, where you'll find plenty of good clubs but it is best to make a reservation, Bollé club is one posh club on that street . Be forewarned - entrance is judged on appearance and to get a table a minimum 2 bottle service is required, unless its a slow night [min. US$80 per bottle]. Posh and upper scale night clubs can be found in the Lomas area, particularly the Hyde, Shine, Sense and Disco Lomas Clubs, but be warned some of these could be extremely expensive, where the cover charge could range from 250 pesos upwards and bottles start at 130 USD. In addition, getting in could very difficult, as these are the most exclusive in town. There are also exclusive gay friendly clubs in that area with the same caracteristics Envy night club on palmas 500 and Made nightclub on chapultepec next the lake and the restaurant El Lago chapultepec.
The other common Mexican-style thing to do when going out is to go dancing, usually to salsa, meringue, rumba, mambo, son, or other Caribbean/Latin music. This is considerably more fun if you're a somewhat competent dancer, but even complete beginners who don't mind making fools of themselves will likely enjoy it. Most dance places close late, 3-4AM is common.
The legal drinking age is 18. It is illegal to consume alcohol in public ("open container"). This is strictly enforced and the penalty is at least 24 hours in jail.
Take an identification card such as a copy of your passport.
The city has literally hundreds of hotels and some sublets in all price ranges, though the district you want to stay in will be a good indicator of price and quality. Zona Rosa is a tourist haven with a strong mid-range selection; the Polanco district is where high-end hotels thrive, and the Centro Histórico is home to plenty of budget hotels, sublets apartments and backpacker hostels. A wide variety of hotels can also be found along Paseo de la Reforma. Local designers and architects are feeding a new generation of sublets where detail and variety are proving that globalization does not mean uniformity.
If you are on a low-budget, you can find hotels as low as $7 USD if you take a room with a shared bathroom. Most are centred in the Centro Historico and are very decent.
Hostels are more expensive than getting your own private room with full facilities like a TV and restroom, but the cheap hotels are not listed on the internet and many foreigners jump into the hostels for a much worse value. The hostels are a good place to meet people but you should only stay there if you don't mind noise and sharing a restroom. There are plenty of other places to meet people besides hostels so be sure to look around before deciding to stay at one just because it has a sign in English.
To stay in contact while traveling in México City.
If someone is calling you the country code is +52 then the area code is 55 then the 8 digit phone number. If you want to make a long distance call out of Mexico , you should dial the prefix 01 for national calls followed by the area code. If you are making an international long distance call, you must dial 00 followed by the country code, for example, if you're calling the U.S. you should dial 00+1 and the area code, if you're calling the U.K, dial 00+44 and the area code, and so on.
If you want to use your cellular phone you can get your phone unlocked before you go. When you arrive in Mexico City, you can purchase a Telcel or Movistar Sim (GSM) card, called a "chip". Then you will get a Mexican Cell phone number. Remember this is a prepaid cellular option. You get free incoming calls from inside the city, but the roaming charges can easily build up if you travel to other cities. People calling you from long distance will need to dial in this format: +52 (55) plus 8 or 7 digit phone number. Mexico city, Guadalajara and Monterrey have 8 digit numbers, and 2 digit area codes. The rest of the country has 7 digit numbers and 3 digit area codes.
Calling from a Mexican phone (either land or mobile) to a Mexican cell phone is called ¨El Que Llama Paga¨ meaning only the person making the call pays for the air time, and thus requires the 044 prefix before the 10 digit number composed of the area code and the mobile number to be dialed: land or mobile to Mexico City registered mobile would be 044 55 12345678. If you are calling to a mobile with a different area code, i.e. Acapulco area code 744 then you use the prefix 045, then the three digit area code, the seven digit mobile i.e. 045 744 1234567. This might seem confusing at first but you get easily accustomed to it.
Another option is to buy a prepaid Mexican phone kit, they frequently include more air time worth than the kit actually costs, air time is called ¨Tiempo Aire¨. For Telcel these kits are called ¨Amigo Kit¨ for Movistar they are called ¨Movistar Prepago¨ and for Iusacell ¨Viva Kit¨ the you can just keep the phone as a spare for whenever you are in Mexico; there are no costs in between uses. These kits start at around 30 USD and can be purchased at the thowsands of mobile phone dealerships, or at OXXO convinence stores, and even supermarkets.
There are four main cell phone operators in Mexico.
Mexico City has amazing access to the internet considering the availability in the rest of Latin America. There are several internet cafes throughout the city, many of them in Zona Rosa. Price varies from 10 to 20 pesos an hour.
Look for the word 'Cyber' or 'CiberCafe' in order to find a place with internet access.
Hot spots for wi fi connection to the internet are available in several places around the city, particularly in malls, coffee stores and restaurants. Most (if not all) of them are operated by the Mexican phone company Telmex through their Internet division Prodigy Movil. In order to be able to connect in those places, the user must be subscribed to the service, or buy a prepaid card known as "Tarjeta Multifon"; visitors coming from the US can access the service using their AT&T or T-Mobile Internet accounts. Cards can be bought at the Sanborns restaurant chain, Telmex stores and many stores that offer telephony related products.
Unfortunately there are no full-time English spoken radio stations in Mexico, however these are a few options to listen:
With the exception of "The News", you won't find newspapers in English or other foreign languages in regular newsstands, however, you can find many at any Sanborns store. Many U.S. newspapers have subscriptions available in Mexico, including the Wall Street Journal , Today, the New York Times and the Miami Herald.
Some of the most read local newspapers include:
Travel in Mexico City is generally safe. Areas around the historic center are generally well-lit and patrolled in the early evening. Much of your travel within the city will be done via public transportation or walking. Mexico City is an immensely crowded place, and with any major metropolitan area, it is advised to be aware of your surroundings.
Taxi robberies, so-called "express kidnappings", where the victim is robbed and then taken on a trip to various ATMs to max out their credit cards, do occur, although safety in the city has improved in recent years. 95% of total kidnapping victims are nationals, so your odds of being taken are very slim, they are not targeting strangers, yet you should always use your common sense.
The two most common recommendations for a safe cab riding experience are to make sure you take an official cab, and to notify a person you trust of the license plate number of the cab you are riding. There is a free app available for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry (soon) that allows you to verify if a cab is official by comparing the taxi license plate number with the government provided data and that lets you communicate through Facebook, Twitter and/or email the license plate number of the cab you have taken or even communicate an emergency through these mediums. The free service is called Taxiaviso
Protect your personal information. There are pickpockets in Mexico City. Purses and bulky, full pockets are quite attractive. Do not keep your passports, money, identification, and other important items hanging out for someone to steal. Place items in a hotel safe with a proper locking mechanism, or tuck them away inside your clothes. The "Metro" subway system can get extremely crowded, which creates opportunities for pickpockets on cars that are often standing room only.
Watch out for small groups of "interesting" people playing "magic" tricks near the entrances to Metro stations as these can be a ruse to have tourists gather round while others in the "troupe", acting as audience members, bump and push for a view of the "magicians" but in fact may be reaching into your bags or pockets.
Do not show money in front of others as this generally attracts pickpockets. Be vigilant when using ATM machines, be sure to hide your money safely away before leaving the ATM booth. In crowded public places such as the North and South long distance bus terminals, be sure nobody is following after you after you've withdrawn money from the ATM.
Do not leave anything of value inside your car, always use the trunk, even things that could be considered to hold something of value (for example, an empty gift box) will attract unwanted attention to your car and might prompt a broken window.
Plan ahead, and know where you are going and how you will arrive. Mexico City is quite hospitable, and people who work for hotels and other hospitality-oriented businesses will help. This will help in avoiding confusion, becoming lost or stranded. Also, you can ask a local for advice to get somewhere, though you should speak good Spanish to do this. In the Polanco, Sante Fe and Lomas districts, some police officers and many business people and younger people speak English, as it is common in these affluent areas for children to learn English in school.
Police officers in Mexico get paid a third of what New York City police officers make, and some rely on bribes and corruption to make more money (however, never offer a bribe first since usually an officer will at least go through the formality of assessing a fine). The historic center and other major sites often have specially trained tourist police that are more helpful than ordinary transit cops.
The Mexico City Government recently opened a specialized prosecution office (Ministerio Público in Spanish) for foreigners that find themselves affected by robberies or other crime situations. It is in Victoria Street 76, Centro Historico. Multilingual staff are available.
In case of emergency
Dial 066, the number for all emergencies, (fire, police and medical).
Some people may consider Mexico City to have a bad reputation, in terms of crime statistics, air pollution, and on more contrived issues, such as earthquakes. However, crime and pollution levels are down over the last decade and you shouldn't face any trouble within the tourist areas. As in any large city, there are areas that are better to be avoided, especially at night, and precautions to take, but Mexico City is not particularly dangerous.
When walking in the city you could be approached by people. Usually they are just trying to sell something or begging for a few coins, but if you aren't interested, it is not considered insulting to just ignore them. Also, if someone of importance (such as a police officer) approaches you, they will definitely let you know.
If you do get approached by a police officer, understand that there are three different types: the Policia (Police), who are usually driving around the city with their lights flashing; the Policia Auxiliar (Blue uniform)(Auxiliary Police), who are like security guards; and the Policia de Transito (Bright Yellow hat and vest) (Traffic Police) who simply direct traffic.
If you are cruising around town and don't want to look like a tourist, avoid wearing shorts. It gets hot here, but it is remarkable how few locals in the capital city wear shorts. Some churches won't even let you walk inside if you are wearing shorts.
Being a predominantly Catholic country, if you wish to avoid looking like a foreigner then always dress conservatively. In general, it is wise to ensure that your shoulders, collarbones and midriffs are covered, and that your shirt has sleeves. The locals are very used to seeing tourists (particularly females) provocatively dressed, therefore, dressing properly helps to avoid negative emotions.
If you are visiting nicer areas of the city, such as the public parks or any museums or government buildings, proper expected dress by the locals for both male and females is to wear a collared shirt and slacks. Young children (less than 8 or 9 years old) can get away with wearing tee shirts, however, they should not display anything that could be considered non-Catholic. Generally, for museums and government buildings, the expected dress a button-front shirt with slacks for men and a blouse and skirt or slacks for women. Children in these places (if they are allowed in) will be expected to dress the same. In the parks, the public is more forgiving, and you don't have to dress up or wear anything out of the ordinary but it is advised not to dress too lenient. Sometimes, you will be permitted to underdress (particularly in restaurants) if it is demonstrated enough of your party has full or partial Spanish proficiency. Mexicans may be used to seeing foreigners who do not speak the national language and speaking it may surprise or impress them.
At one time it was advisable to avoid wearing jeans in the city, especially in restaurants or areas where you are expected to dress nicely (see above). Jeans are sometimes associated with the poorer people towards the north of the country who perform manual labor and wearing them may stir negative connotations, especically if you are male and American. Today, jeans are common and you should be alright to wear them in most casual situations. However, there is a general class consciousness among the people of Mexico City that makes it a good idea to dress a bit more formally than you would in most areas of the United States.
Mexicans in general will kick you out of churches, museums, restaurants, etc. if you are not dressed properly. Remember most Mexicans are very curious in regards of foreigners and are willing to help. If in need for directions or even if you are unsure on what to wear, try to ask young people, who may speak a little English.
Many locals (not all of them, of course) have very aggressive driving habits as a result of the frequent traffic jams in the city. Some traffic signals are more an ornament than what they were made for, such as Stop signs, although most people respect traffic lights and pedestrian ways. When traffic is not present, particularly at night, locals tend to speed up so be careful when changing lanes. Street names and road signs may not be present everywhere so it is strongly advisable to ask for directions before driving your car.
Sometimes potholes, fissures, and large-yet-unanticipated speed-bumps ("topes") are common on the roads, so exercise some caution. Even at a small crawl, these can damage a car, especially in city suburbs as well as the backroads between towns. It should be avised that when driving, a fast succesion of white lines cutting the road perpendicular means a 'tope' is approaching and you should slow down immediately and maneuver over the tope as slowly and carefully as possible.
When off the main roads, especially in the colonias, maneuvering in the narrow streets and alleys can be tricky. Often a paved road turns to cobblestone (in high-end neighborhoods) or dirt (if this happens, you've gone way off the tourist areas). Also, some colonia streets are blocked off behind gates and security guards may not let you pass if you are not a resident.
If you are driving through a housing development, you should beware of children, as they often run on the pavement as if they were in their backyard.
You should also be mindful of people on bicycles and motorcycles alike, because they tend to drive in the narrow spaces between cars. The best thing to do is to yield to them.
Trolleys have the right of way on their assigned lane, since they cannot switch lanes as easily.
Those who are used to having a berm or paved area to the side of the road will quickly notice that the berm is missing on many roads and freeways such as Viaducto and Periferico. If you go off the side of the road, there will be a four to six inch drop off of the pavement. Driving in Mexico City should be avoided if at all possible.
Note that in high density areas such as Centro Historico, Mexico City, there is no street parking available during business hours.
Even the best of plans can go wrong when you arrive at your proposed exit at 65 mph, and there is a detour onto some other road with no markings or road signs, with everyone going as fast as they can go. At that point you may want to exit immediately and regroup before you end up miles from where you planned to exit. Maps and road signs likely will be lacking any usable information in a situation like this and your best bet may be to navigate by the seat of your pants a parallel route to the one you found closed.
Mexico City's alcohol laws are harsh; although in many nightclubs, bars and restaurants it is common for minors to drink without proving their age as long as they appear to be over 18. It is also permitted for minors to drink alcohol if they are in the company of an adult who is willing to take responsibility. Drinking alcoholic beverages in the street is prohibited--doing so can get you in trouble with the police. Drunk driving is also strictly prohibited and strongly punished, though it seems highly common in any case. The police have incorporated random alcohol tests on streets near bars and clubs, and if you test positive, you could be arrested and spend 36 hours in jail. The system is very efficient, and you will sometimes see a stopped car or truck with a policeman interrogating the occupants.
Smoking inside public and private buildings is strictly prohibited by law. Restaurants used to have smoking and non-smoking sections, but recent laws have banned smoking in any public enclosed space. Fines can be steep, so if you want to smoke in a restaurant it is best to ask the waiter before lighting up. Of course, going outside is always an option. Smoking light drugs, such as marijuana, is prohibited and offenders could be imprisoned if found in possesion of more than one personal dose.
Being the national capital, Mexico City hosts a large number of embassies. A number of them are located in Delegaciones (Boroughs) Miguel Hidalgo & Álvaro Obregón surrounding Bosque Chapultepec, towards the west, and Cuauhtémoc which is "zona rosa" in a more central area. They can be elsewhere in the area too. Some embassies are in a house located in a residential neighborhood and can be easy to miss while others are in bigger multi-story building along a busy road and easier to find (USA, France, Canada, Russia, Cuba, etc).
... or see http://www.sre.gob.mx/acreditadas/ for an extended list of countries with embassies in Mexico City. Some countries such as Yemen have their embassy to North America only in Washington, DC which manages their relationship to Mexico, Central America &/or Canada as well as to the U.S. from the same place or simply don't have diplomatic relationship with Mexico.