Difference between revisions of "Mexico City"
Revision as of 14:21, 20 October 2007
The city is officially divided into 16 "Delegaciones" (boroughs) and thereafter into smaller "Colonias" (neighborhoods), 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 its original character.
The outer area of Mexico City includes:
Mexico City, sometimes considered the world's largest and most populated city, forms a rough oval of about 60 by 40 kilometers, on the dry bed of lake Texcoco, surrounded on three sides by tall mountains and volcanoes such as the Ajusco, the Popocatepetl and the Ixtlacihuatl. It's a massive urban sprawl, stretching from Mexico State in the north, through the Federal District (Distrito Federal), and into the state of Morelos in the south. Estimates place the population of the full metropolitan area at somewhere between 25 and 30 million people.
The Distrito Federal part of the city, which is where most tourists will spend the majority of their time, is divided up into 16 delegations, similar to the boroughs of New York, which in turn are divided into "colonies" (colonias), of which there are about 250. Knowing what colony you're going to is essential to getting around, almost all locals will know where a given colony is (however, beware that there are some colonies 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 meters above the sea level. Some people not used to high places have experienced difficulty when breathing, however these symptoms fade a few minutes after arrival.
Mexico City's night life is like all other aspects of the city; it's 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 decades-old dance halls in Centro and Roma. There are also pubs in Tlalpan and Coyoacán and clubs of every stripe in Insurgentes, Polanco, 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 right after these dates is when most Mexicans will go out, especially if pay day 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's 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 city of Tenochtitlan was founded and later destroyed in 1521 by Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortes. Then the city served as the capital of the Viceroyalty of the 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 - U.S. war in 1847, the city was invaded by the American army. In 1864 the French invaded Mexico and the emperor Ferdinand Maximilian of Habsburg 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 Richter grade earthquake that tore down several buildings in the Centro Historico, Colonia Roma and other old neighborhood.
Mexico City ranks 8th in terms of GDP size among 30 world cities. More than a third of total Mexican economy is concentrated here. The size of its economy is US $315 billion, compared to $1.1 trillion of that of New York. It is home to the Mexican Stock Exchange, the largest in Latin America. Most of the large local and multinational corporations are headquartered here, mainly in the Polanco and Santa Fe districts.
Mexico City has clearly distinct seasons but overall mild weather, never too hot, never too cold, with the highest temperature in summer around 31 °C and the lowest -2°C in winter.
The city sits in a valley, formed by mountains and volcanoes, making this the worst of the environments to locate one of the largest cities in the world. In 1987 pollution reached its worst when one day thousands of birds appeared dead on the sidewalks of the city. Environmentalists attibuted this to air pollution. This situation obliged authorities to implement measures to improve air quality, resulting in the transfer of most of heavy industry (glass, car and steel factories) and oil refineries outside of the city and the introduction of unleaded vehicle fuels. Today, the air quality is in much better shape and ozone and carbon dioxide are on the fall. Although the smog layer is visible nearly every day, its effects in terms of breathing and eye irritation should be barely noticeable and it shouldn't be something to worry for the visitor. Pollution could be at its worst in the hot, dry season of Spring, from late February to early May and there's a greenhouse effect that appears during winter from late November to early February. You can check the current air quality at the Atmospheric Monitoring System website from the secretary of environment. This government body established an index denominated IMECA (Metropolitan Index for Air Quality) in order to make population aware of the current air pollution situation. When the index exceeds 170 points, a "Environmental pre-contingency" is issued and people is asked to refrain from performing open-air activities such as sports. If the index exceeds 200 points, an "Environmental Contingency" is issued and part of the vehicle fleet, depending on the last number in its license plate. For instance, if the contingency is issued for Monday, cars with plates ending in 5 and 6, cannot circulate, if the contingency is issued for Tuesday, cars with plates ending in 7 and 8, Wednesday 3 and 4, Thursday 1 and 2, Friday 9 and 0 and all foreign cars cannot circulate on Friday.
The catastrophic earthquake of 8.1 degrees richter that took place in the morning of September 19th 1985 and took the lives of between 9,000 and 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 phenomena. 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, there's no better thing than to remain calm. Most buildings have clearly marked exit paths, follow it out to the street.
With a population of more than 25 million including 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 (Carlos Slim, the world's richest man, lives there). Most of the Mexican entertainment and cultural celebrities live and work here. It is also home to several foreign communities (some bigger than others) that have settled here throughout the years, including Spanish, German, Chilean, American, French, Japanese and more recently a big influx of Argentinians. It is also the temporary home to many expats working here for the many multinational companies operating in Mexico.
Although Mexico City is considered an expensive city, your trip budget will rely 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 (9 to 19 USD), using public transport and eating at street stands, while a more comfortable budget should range between 200 to 500 pesos a day (19 to 49 USD) using private taxis (taxi de sitio) and eating at fast food places, for those that money is not a problem then the sky is the limit.
The addressing system is fairly simple, starting by street name, house number, colonia (neighborhood), city, state and postal code. A typical address could be something like Colima 15, Colonia Roma Norte, Mexico, Distrito Federal, 06760
Most travelers arrive to Mexico City by air, to the Benito Juárez International Airport, located in the eastern part of the city. There are frequent flights to and from most larger cities in the world, as Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, London, Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt, Toronto and Tokyo. Some of the international airlines that operate regular flights to Mexico City include (as of April 2007): Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air France, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Avianca, British Airways, Continental Airlines, Copa, Cubana de Aviacion, Delta, Iberia, Japan Airlines, KLM, LAN, Lloyd Aereo Boliviano (recently grounded), Lufthansa, Mexicana, Northwest, TACA, United Airlines and US Airways. The airport has a plane spotting area. To reach it, take the subway and go to the Terminal Aerea station.
If you arrive on an international flight, after picking your luggage you will go through Immigration, and then Customs. Make sure you fill in all forms prior to landing to make this an expedite process. There is a $300 Dollars 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. 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 beloved ones at the airport and the hall is rather small for a city of its size. 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 travelling in a group or have a lot of bags.
Located in the City of Toluca 50 kilometers northwest of Mexico City. This airport 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 April 2007, Toluca is served internationally by Continental Airlines from Houston. Reaching the Toluca airport is not easy since you will need to drive your own car or hire a Taxi that could result expensive. Volaris offers free airport shuttle from its Santa Fe office in Vasco de Quiroga Avenue, while Interjet offers shuttle from several hotels around the city, including the Santa Fe Sheraton hotel.
Depending on your overall trip, it might also be worth considering flying to nearby cities as Cuernavaca (CVJ) and Puebla (PBC), however reaching Mexico City from these places could result troublesome or 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 and it is possible to buy one single ticket from many major cities in the U.S. to Mexico. Traveling by bus in Mexico is comfortable compared to other countries, since most of Mexicans used to travel by bus until the recent introduction of several low-cost airlines.
The city has 4 major bus stations:
Some of the most common bus lines in Mexico:
Passenger Train service ceased operating in Mexico some ten years ago, only freight trains ride to and around Mexico City.
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.
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 in their famous green paint scheme.
Officially named "Sistema de Transporte Colectivo", but simply known as Metro  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. It's relatively quick and efficient, especially as an alternative to taxis during rush hours, and extremely cheap (tickets for one trip with unlimited transfers within the system are 2 pesos - around 20 US cents). Trains are often filled to capacity, especially at rush hours and sometimes it can be hot and uncomfortable. There are also a few incidences of pickpocketing. A good way to avoid being robbed is to wait for the train at the end of the tracks where is less crowded. The Metro is most useful when your destination is on a Metro line you're already close to, to minimize train changes. In those cases, the metro can be the absolutely quickest way to travel longer distances within the city.
Although the Metro system lacks of information in English, the system was designed to define Lines and Stations using pictorial signs and colors, originally intended for people who couldn't read, therefore using the Metro shouldn't be a big problem. A few stations may not be in good shape and their signs may have been destroyed, so be sure you get information on which stations you have to use before hopping in.
There are often people walking through the carriages trying to sell stuff. Act as if you were used to them. Often they advertise their merchandise with songs. It's quite amusing, but don't laugh... this is how they make a living and they deserve respect.
One important thing about the Metro is that, from start to finish, one should look businesslike and look as uninterested as if you had done it every day for twenty years; many people on the system do just that. The place is, after all, a means of transportation and not an attraction. As in other Western countries, it's considered good manners to offer your seat to the aged, pregnant or disabled, all cars have clearly marked handicap seats.
Be aware that the Metro does not run between midnight and 5:00AM (6:00AM on Saturday, 7:00AM on Sunday). If your plans will take you beyond midnight, be sure to have alternate transport.
Some lines run through more tourist-related spots than others. Line number 5 (yellow) connects the Mexico City International Airport (Terminal Aerea station) with the rest of the Metro system. Line number 7 (orange) runs through many touristic spots such as the Chapultepec Forest (Auditorio Station) and the Polanco neighborhood (Polanco Station). Line number 9 runs near the Condesa neighborhood (Chilpancingo). Line number 2 (blue) runs through the Centro Historico (Allende, Zocalo and Bellas Artes stations) and reaches the South Bus Station (Tasquena). Line number 3 (green) runs near Coyoacan (Coyoacan and Miguel Angel de Quevedo stations) and also near the University City (Copilco and Ciudad Universitaria stations). Line number 1 (pink) also runs through many tourist spots, such as Centro Historico (Salto del Agua station), the Chapultepec Forest (Chapultepec Station), Condesa and Roma neighborhoods (Insurgentes and Sevilla stations) and the Northwest Bus Station (Observatorio station).
The following are a few Metro signs translated into english that will help you get you going through the Metro:
Both type of buses usually stop at the same place. 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.
Buses can be packed during rush hours, and you have to pay attention to your stops (buses make very short stops if there's just one person getting off, so be ready), but they are very practical when your route aligns with a large avenue. If it does not, be prepared to get down at a moment's notice, since you can get very, very lost in five minutes of ride. There's usually a button above or close to the rear door to signal that you're getting off; if there isn't one, it's not working, or you can't get to it, shouting Bajan! (pronounced "BAH-han") in a loud and desperate voice usually works.
Established in June 2005, the Metrobús operates in a confined lane along Insurgentes Avenue. Plans exist for additional routes. It costs 3.5 pesos to ride during the day, but a card must be bought in advance (11 pesos). After 11:30 or so, it's 5 pesos. There are stops approximately every 500m. Expect it to be crowded around the clock.
By Trolley Buses
"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 2 pesos (around 20 cents USD), and bus drivers give no change.
By Light Rail
"Tren Ligero" , operated by Electric Transport Services, consists of one single line that runs south of the City. Useful if you plan to visit Xochimilco or the Azteca stadium. Connects with the Metro system at the "Taxqueña" station (Line 2). The rate for a single ride is 2 pesos, and your Metro ticket is not valid to transfer into the Tren Ligero.
The more than 250 thousand registered cabs are one of the most efficient ways to get around, especially outside of rush hours, and 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 11 at night and 6 in the morning, but this may vary with the cab driver's mood, 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, another cab will come along.
Catching cabs in the street can be dangerous, since free-range cabs are not accountable to anyone. 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, but there are some general precautions that will minimize the risk:
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 $120 pesos (around USD $11) 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. If you are in downtown area you are always close to a metro station, but the line stops at the National Auditorium, so hotels in Santa Fe are only reachable by car.
The least advised way to visit the City due to the complicated road structure 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. Because people tend to speed when traffic is not present, many avenues and streets are full of speed bumps and some of these are really high. Since the city grew without planned control, the street structure could look as a labyrinth. 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 unexistant 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 advise is to pay if you want to see your car in good shape when you come back.
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. Seatbelts are mandatory for both front seats. 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 trend is to refuse giving them anything.
Downtown Mexico City has been an urban area since the precolumbian 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, being New York #2, London #3 and Toronto #4.
Mexico is the city with the largest number of museums in the world.
Mexico City has something for everyone, shopping from haute-couture to hand made crafts , from museums to parks, from chic restaurants to street vendor food, from decades-old dance clubs to chic clubs. The most usual schedule foreign travelers do is a visit to the Centro Historico, a visit to the ruins of Teotihuacan in the outskirts of the City and probably a visit to Xochimilco.
If you're into sports, then Mexico City has plenty to offer. Soccer Football is the national sport and Mexicans go crazy about it. The city was host to two FIFA world cups, one in 1970 and the other in 1986. Other important sport is Baseball, being Mexico a good supplier of professional players to the U.S. 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.
Plaza Mexico Augusto Rodin 241 corner with Holbein street Colonia Nochebuena. Is the largest bullring in the world, with a seating capacity of 40,000.
Like many other things in the country, Mexico City has the largest concentration of Universities and Colleges, starting with the UNAM, 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.
Arts and Crafts
The National Fund for the Development of Arts and Crafts (Fonart), Avenida Patriotismo 691, in Mixcoac, Avenida Paseo de la Reforma No. 116 in Colonia Juárez and Avenida Juarez 89 in Centro
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
Many food products in Mexico including Milk are Kosher compliant. If you're looking for specific products, try some stores in the Polanco neighborhood.
Although you may consider Mexico City as the world capital of Tacos, you can find almost any kind of food in this city, specialties from all regions of Mexico and international cuisine: Japanese, Chinese, French, Polish, Italian, Argentinian, Belgian, Irish, you name it. There are some areas with a higher concentration of restaurants than others: Polanco characterizes for upscale places while Condesa and Zona Rosa are more informal. Centro Historico and Zona Rosa have many old fashioned and traditional places.
For those who want something familiar, cheap and safe (but probably rather bland in comparison to what else is available), most international food chains have franchises here such as McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza, Friday's. Chili's, Dairy Queen, Subway, etc.
There are also Mexican chains that can be assumed to be safe and similar no matter where you are, including Vips, Toks, and the most traditional, Sanborns all reminiscent of Denny's in the U.S. and you can expect to pay between 100 to 150 pesos per person. If you're on a budget, you can also try one of the myriad of "comida corrida" restaurants (set menus). Most of these offer very good food, and it is usually safe. Most office workers eat in these places and a set menu should range between 35 to 60 pesos.
Asian restaurants are abundant, and the quality is good (Korean, Japanese and Chinese are most common, Indian, Thai and Indonesian can be harder to find). Sushi Itto, is a local interpretation of what sushi should be, includes Mexican ingredients such as chipotle pepper and they have stores spread all over the city.
If you're in appetite for Italian, you may try any of the many Italianni's. This fairly new chain of Italian restaurants is reminiscent of Olive Garden in the US, but the quality is much better, and the screw prices are mid-range.
Vegetarian alternatives are commonly available at larger restaurants.
Don't leave without trying
Tips Tipping is expected, being 10% the standard for all restaurants. You can tip less or don't tip at all for poor service.
There are many "Puestos" (street stands) selling "Tortas" (filled bread rolls similar to a Sub) or Tacos, but caution is advised since some places may lack the necessary hygiene. If you feel like trying this, look for places with lots of people, popularity is generally proportional to quality. 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 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, prices are usually reasonable compared to prices in the US, and you'll be continually served various Mexican food, such as tacos. If your tolerance for Mexican music (mariachi or otherwise), smoke-filled rooms, and lots of noise is low, however, this might 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, have a familiar atmosphere and also open at midday for lunch.
In addition, there are bars of the kind most travelers will be used to, many of these play a combination of Spanish- and English-language rock, electronic music, and some Latin/Caribbean music. These also close around 3-4.
There are clubs, falling 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, 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. Some of these clubs have a strong upper-class bent, check the crowd outside before you enter to see if it's people you enjoy spending time with. Most clubs close late, 3-4 at the earliest, and some are open until 7 or 8.
Around the Zocalo there's a club called "Pervert Club", which is overpriced and generally quite empty, even on a Saturday night. Your best bet is to head for Zona Rosa, which has a large number of street bars with rock bands playing and a large selection of clubs. One of the best clubs "Africa" is reasonably priced (after the entrance fee) and plays a great selection of latin and English pop. They also provide African hats and balloons for everyone's entertainment! A very good part of town is San Angel / Pedregal, a lot of wealthy young adults in this area provide for a very good vibe of clubs. Be forewarned - Appearance is a must to get in, and to get a table a minimum 2 bottle service is required, unless slow night [min. US$80 per bottle]. Otherwise slow, but cheaper bar service is available. All kinds of "hit" music plays, and the best crowds are located here. Some cater to specific types of music though [e.g. Vantay plays more rock bands]
The other common Mexican-style thing to do when going out is to go dancing, usually to salsa, merengue, 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. If you are single, this is an excellent way to hook up with someone; Mexicans will generally take pleasure in teaching you basic dance steps. Most dance places close late, 3-4 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.
Mexico City leading hotels tend to be spread out thru the city. However, in the Polanco region there is a good concentration of high-end hotels, including Presidente Intercontinental, Nikko Hotel, W Hotel, Four Seasons. Any business area such as Pedregal, Polanco, Reforma, will have a great variety of hotels. The Centro Histórico specialises in budget hotels, and attracts backpackers.
The Hotel Catedral is a clean and safe midrange place in a perfect location. It is just off the Zocalo and is a much more economical option than the luxury hotels that dominate the neighborhood. Some rooms have partial views of the rear of the cathedral, but these are noisy due to the church bells.
The Hotel Habana in the Calle República de Cuba has well-appointed rooms for a good price. The neighbourhoood, however, is not that good. A couple of blokes should have no problems, though.
If you are low-budget you can find hotels as low as 20 - 30 USD. Just remember you get what you pay for.
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 phone number. If you want to make a Long Distance call out of Mexico , you should dial the prefix 0 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, in 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 0044 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 México City, you can purchase a Télcel(there only reliable service provider) Sim (GSM) card, called a "Chip". Then you will get a Méxican Cell phone number. Remember this is a prepaid cellular option. Most of the time you can get free incomming calls from inside the city.
There are four main cell phone operators in Mexico.
Iusacell got recently merged with Unefon.
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.
Unfortunately there are no full-time English spoken radio stations in Mexico, however these are a few options to listen:
You will normally not 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 suscriptions available in Mexico, including the Wall Street Journal , Today, the New York Times and the Miami Herald.
Some of the most read local newsspapers include:
Travel in Mexico City is generally safe. 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, you can expect a few bad apples.
Plan ahead - 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 district, all policemen speak English, and so do many business people and younger children as it is very common to learn in school.
Catching cabs in the street can be dangerous, since free-range cabs are not accountable to anyone. 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.
Protect your personal information. There are many 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. Use a money belt or place these items in a hotel safe, or tuck them away inside your clothes.
Do not show money in front of others, this generally attracts pickpockets.
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 located in Victoria Street 76, Centro Historico. Multilingual staff available.
In case of Emergency
Dial 066, the number for all emergencies, (fire, police). A little of spanish could help.
Some people may consider Mexico City has a bad reputation, in terms of crime statistics, air pollution, and more contrived issues, such as earthquakes, however, crime and pollution levels are down over the last decade and Tourists shouldn't face trouble if they stay within 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 a particularly dangerous city.
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. Remember, if you are not interested in what they're selling, do not even acknowledge their presence. It is not considered insulting, only just a sign you are not interested. Also, if someone of importance approaches (a police officer for example) you they will definitely let you know. If you are approached by someone wishing to do you harm you won't even see it coming. Just remember the best way to navigate the city, especially if you do not know a lot of Spanish, is with horse blinders (not physically of course, just the frame of mind).
If it is a Police officer, understand that there are three different types of police officers. There is the Policia (Police), which are usually driving around the city with their lights always on. There is the Policia Auxiliar (Auxiliary Police), which are like security guards. There is the Policia de Transito (traffic police) which just simply direct traffic. Overall, Police officers do not interfere with tourists, but if you find yourself stopped by one without reason try to make as much noise as possible and tell them you want to call your embassy "Quiero llamar a mi embajada".
Remember most of Mexicans are very curious in regards of foreigners and willing to help. If in need for directions, try to ask young people, who may speak a little english.
For bad, Mexico City is still a classist and racist place. Many food or drink places are dominated by the middle and upper classes in a very clear-cut way, which might be a good or bad thing depending on your outlook. Prices and location are a good key to who is allowed in; expect to be waved off at the door if you don't look like the crowd. Many places have an unwritten dress code and will discard you in a minute if you speak or act "naco" (low-class). A key to typical fashion is much more European than American. Girls do not wear mini-skirts, and are much more conservatively clothed than in much of the U.S., also men are expected to be up to date with fashion. For a rule of thumb Business casual or higher if you are going out to eat, or even the mall. Looking like a foreigner, especially if you look American, Canadian or European will usually get you into the expensive places, if you're dressed right. Once inside, people might be curious about you as a tourist, but expect to be left alone if you came in alone and are unable to draw a crowd by charm, ability, or generosity. Girls are conservative when one gets down to it, and guys draw crowds by attitude and by joining up with friends in the crowd.
Locals have terrible driving habits as a result of the frequent traffic jams everywhere in the City. Traffic signals are more an ornament than what they were made for. Using your turn blinkers will cause other drivers not letting you merge into other lanes or turning where you want to turn to. 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 evereywhere for what is strongly advisable to ask for directions before driving your car. Potholes, fissures, and very unanticipated speed-bumps (topes) are common on the roads so exercise some caution. When off the main roads, especially in the colonias (neighborhoods), 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.
Mexico City's Alcohol Laws are harsh, although in many nightclubs, bars and restaurants; it is common that minors can drink alcohol without need to prove their adulthood (they just have to appear being over 18+). It is permitted for a minor to drink alcohol if it is in company of an adult who is willing to take responsibility for his/her actions. Drinking alcoholic beverages in the street is prohibited. Doing so can cause you a real bad time with the Police. Drunk driving is also strictly prohibited and strictly enforced. The Police has incorporated random alcohol tests in streets and avenues near bars and clubs and when positive can lead you to 36 hours under arrest in jail. The system is very efficient and you will sometimes see a stopped car or truck with a Policeman interrogating them.
Smoking inside public and private buildings is prohibited by law, however, many places have smoker designated areas. Restaurants have smoking and non-smoking sections, ask your waiter for your preference.