Mexico City

Mexico City Cathedral in the Centro

Mexico City (Spanish: México, Ciudad de México, or D.F. (pronounced deh eh-feh)) is the capital city of Mexico, and the largest city in North America.

Districts

Mexico City main districts and roads

The city is officially divided into 16 delegaciones (boroughs) which are in turn subdivided into colonias (neighborhoods), of which there are around 2150; 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.

Other areas of Mexico City include:

Understand

Angel de la Independencia in Zona Rosa

The greater Mexico City metropolitan area is one of the world's largest and the largest city in North America, with a 20.1 million people living in the metropolitan area as of the 2010 census. It is situated in the Valley of Mexico and shaped roughly like an oval of about 60 km by 40 km with large parts of it 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 Iztaccihuatl. Mexico City proper (with an estimated population of between 8 to 9 million) is since 2016 a Mexican state which also acts as its capital. Confusingly, the rest of the metropolitan area extends beyond Mexico City into the State of Mexico, which surrounds Mexico City on the West, North and East, and Hidalgo further North. Legally and practically speaking, Mexico City refers to the city proper and is the area where tourists will spend all or most of their time.

Mexico City is divided up into 16 boroughs similar to those in New York, which in turn are divided into "colonias" (neighborhoods), of which there are about 2150. Knowing what colonia you're going to is essential to getting around, and almost all locals will know where the main colonias are (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 center is located 2230 m above mean sea level, while some areas reach up to 3000 m. 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.

Skyline of Reforma skyscrapers

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.

History


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 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 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.

Economy

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.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 21 23 26 27 26 25 23 23 23 22 22 21
Nightly lows (°C) 6 7 9 11 12 12 12 12 12 10 8 7
Precipitation (mm) 8 6 10 23 57 135 161 153 128 54 13 7

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.

Air pollution

Pollution over Mexico City

Many prospective travelers will be aware of Mexico City's somewhat dated notoriety for having terrible air pollution. 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, and for most visitors, air pollution is no longer a major concern. For more detailed coverage of Mexico City's air pollution, see the "Stay safe" section.

People

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. There are significant minorities of descendants of immigrants from Latin America, the Middle East and East Asia, as well as smaller ones from other regions. 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 middle 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 and south 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) and pockets of wealth in the East (such as Lomas Estrella in Iztapalapa), 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. Contrary to other Latin American capitals, it has a political orientation far to the left of the rest of the country. The centre-left PRD has governed the city continuously since its citizens were allowed to elect its mayor and representatives since 1997. It has liberal laws on abortion, prostitution, euthanasia and was the first jurisdiction in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage (in December 2009). As such, this is generally a gay friendly city, particularly in the Zona Rosa District, and is generally friendly to foreigners and immigrants.

Costs

Although Mexico City is considered an expensive city by Mexican standards, 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 150 to 300 pesos a day (8 to 16 USD), using public transport and eating at street stands, while a more comfortable budget should range between 300 to 500 pesos a day (16 to 30 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.

Addresses

The address system is fairly simple and has the street name, house number, colonia (neighborhood), borough, 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 many other countries where the number precedes the street. Sometimes addresses are instead given based on an intersection ("esquina de/con ..."), or on a street where a place is located and the two streets between which it is located ("... entre calles ... y ..."). It is good to point out that streets can frequently change names, long avenues are split into sections (such as Insurgentes into Insurgentes Norte, Centro and Sur), and street numbering is not always in order, especially in poorer neighbourhoods.

In Mexico City, streets within a neighbourhood often follow a certain theme, such as Latin American countries in the Centro Histórico, European cities in the Zona Rosa or intellectuals in Polanco. A typical address could be something like this: Colima 15, Colonia Roma Norte, Delegación Cuauhtémoc, México, Distrito Federal, 06760. Note that "México" here refers to the city and not the country. The order is pretty standard except for the position of the postal code.

Photography

For the avid photographer, there are a few pointers to keep in mind. The city is paranoid about cameras and especially about tripods. You might be asked to delete pictures, even if they were taking from a public space. You are not allowed to use a tripod in any ticketed place, such as museums, the metro stations, architectural ruins, etc. You will be politely asked to hold your camera in your hands. Apparently, it has something to do with being a professional.

Memory cards can easily be found at several locations, including at 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 identifiable by 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 pharmacy chains 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 smörgåsbord of faces cutting across the square and perching on one of the benches for an hour that 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.

Get in

By plane

Benito Juarez International Airport

Main article: Benito Juárez International Airport

Most travelers arrive to Mexico City by air, to Benito Juárez International Airport, located in the eastern part of the city.

Licenciado Adolfo López Mateos International Airport

This airport (IATA: TLC) is in the City of Toluca 50 km southwest of Mexico City and recently transformed itself from a general aviation airport into an alternative for the congested Mexico City airport. Low-cost airlines Volaris and Interjet serve Mexican destinations as Monterrey, Cancún, Guadalajara and Tijuana. As of February 2016, Toluca is only served internationally by Interjet from Las Vegas. Reaching the Toluca airport from the West of Mexico City (such as Santa Fe) is easy, but it can be time-consuming to do so from the rest of Mexico City.

Other airports

Depending on your overall trip, it might also be worth considering flying to nearby cities as Puebla (PBC), Querétaro (QRO) or Cuernavaca (CVJ), but reaching Mexico City from these places could be quite time-consuming and tiresome.

By bus

Being the national transportation hub there are various bus lines going into and out of Mexico City in all directions, from/to around the country at varying distances. Some of the bus companies come from the surrounding states of Mexico, Hidalgo, Puebla and Guerrero while others come from all over the nation to as far as the U.S border in the north and the Guatemalan border to the south. Most foreigners coming into the country would most likely fly in but it's also possible to travel from various cities in the U.S. to the border with some companies continuing south of the border and from Panama, through the Central American isthmus to Mexico City.

The city has four major bus stations based on the compass points. They are:

There are many other smaller bus stations, which serve fewer destinations but can be very useful if you wish to avoid congestion or are travelling to/from the outer parts of Mexico City. Some of these are:

The below are some of the major bus companies serving Mexico City at one or several bus stations. Some offer service to/from both terminals at the airport (aeropuerto). See the addresses in the below listings as to where they go to in Mexico City:

By train

The main train station in Mexico City is Buenavista Station, from where a suburban commuter train (Ferrocarriles Suburbanos) takes you 27km north to Cuautitlán. While not particularly useful for most tourists, it can be used to see the sights in or close to the northern part of the metropolitan area, such as the old convent at Cuautitlán (walking distance) or the Museo Nacional del Virreinato and fine church in Tepotzotlán (bus ride from Cuautitlán).

Intercity passenger train services to various parts of the country have ceased operations since 1997. A new rail line from Observatorio to Toluca and Zinacantepec is currently under construction.

Get around

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. The city government operates the Metro and Metrobús bus rapid transit system, which are cheap and reliable but can be very crowded during rush hour. It also operates a light rail line, RTP bus system and electric trolleybuses. There are also plenty of franchised private buses, minibuses and vans, known as peseros and combis, which are less reliable and safe but reach more destinations. In the metropolitan area, there is a commuter train line and the Mexibús bus rapid transit system, but most destinations are only served by private minibuses and vans.

There are also thousands of taxis, now painted in white and magenta. 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. If you have a smartphone and internet access, the ridesharing services Uber and Cabify can also be used, with the added advantage that you can put your destination beforehand and pay with a credit card.

Google Maps and Apple Maps can plan routes using a car or the city-operated public transport (excluding private buses). There are at least two other 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.

Some mobile apps exist to help users navigate the public transportation system. Metroplex DF is a free and currently maintained option.

By metro

Mexico City Metro

Officially named Sistema de Transporte Colectivo, but known simply as Metro, it is one of the largest and most patronized subway systems in the world, comprised by 12 different lines that measure more than 190 km and carry 4.4 million people every day. You'll quickly see how busy it is, particularly lines 1, 2 and 3 and during the morning (7-9 am) and afternoon (5-7 pm) rush hours: trains are often filled to significantly over capacity, and sometimes it will be hot and uncomfortable. It can get loud in the trains both due to the noise of the wheels and due to conversation, vendors or people blasting their music (see below). 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 by Western standards (tickets for one trip with unlimited transfers within the system cost 5 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 - especially if your origin and departure points align with metro stops. 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. If you missed the food stalls getting on the train, people selling all kinds of things are available in the trains as well. Just don't count on them selling things you need when you need them. Operating hours are from 5AM to midnight on weekdays (starts at 6AM on Saturday and 7AM on Sunday). A last train leaves every terminal station at midnight, so you might be able to catch it a few minutes afterwards, depending on your station.

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. Entire maps of the Metro system are posted around ticket booths and on platforms, but not always inside trains. Neighbourhood maps around every station are also available near the ticket booths.

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 the Centro Histórico (Salto del Agua, Isabel la Católica and Pino Suárez), the Chapultepec Forest (Chapultepec), Condesa and Roma neighborhoods (Insurgentes and Sevilla) and the West (Observatorio) and East (San Lázaro) Bus Stations. Line 2 (blue) runs through the Centro Histórico (Allende, Zócalo and Bellas Artes) and reaches the South Bus Station (Tasqueña). Line 3 (green) runs near Coyoacán (Coyoacán and Miguel Ángel de Quevedo) and also near the University City (Copilco and Ciudad Universitaria). If traveling to and from the airport, you'll want to use Line 5 (yellow) to connect to the Mexico City International Airport (Terminal Aérea, and not Boulevard Puerto Aéreo of line 1, which is 1 km away but is still colloquially called Aeropuerto). The North Bus station is also served by Line 5 at Autobuses del Norte. Line 6 (red) runs east-west through the north of the city and passes by the Basílica de Guadalupe (La Villa - Basílica). Line 7 (orange) runs through many touristic spots such as the Chapultepec Forest (Auditorio) and the Polanco neighborhood (Polanco). Line 8 (green) crosses the Centro Histórico north-south (Salto del Agua, San Juan de Letrán, Bellas Artes and Garibaldi). Line 9 (brown) runs near the Condesa neighborhood (Chilpancingo).

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$5, "cinco" for MX$25, "diez" for MX$50, 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.

Instead of buying individual tickets (and queuing), you may opt for a multi-use rechargeable smart card. At the same window you buy tickets, ask for a tarjeta. There may be a minimum amount for your initial balance. To use the card, simply hold the card next to the white card reader at any turnstile. The cost of a single fare will be deducted and the remaining balance will show on the card reader display. You can ask for a recharge (recargar) at any ticket window to supplement your card's balance. These smart cards can be used in the Metro, Metrobús and Tren Ligero. If you don't speak Spanish, it might be easier to buy a card at the machines in the Metrobús or Tren Ligero stations rather than in a Metro station ticket booth.

Once you have your ticket (boleto) or card, it is time to go through the turnstiles. 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) or put your card against the card reader above. You won't get the ticket back. Some turnstiles are only for smart card holders, which are marked with "solo tarjeta". 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. If this is so, there will be a police officer blocking the way.

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 disadvantaged population make their living by begging or 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 pieces of paper, 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: the Metro is quite safe, but there are a few incidences of pickpocketing every day. 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. Passengers usually look out for each other. 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.

By bus

There are two kinds of buses. The first are full-sized buses operated by the Mexico City Government known as RTP and Ecobús. Regular RTP routes cost $2 anywhere you go, while Express RTP routes cost $4 and the Ecobús costs $5. Most buses have coin boxes, in which case you should should have the exact fare (or be willing to deposit more than your fare) and put the money in the box. If there isn't a coin box, give the money to the driver. RTP buses are orange and green, while Ecobús buses are all green.

The second kind of buses are known as "Microbuses" or "Peseros". These buses are private-run and come in small and bigger sizes. Newer peseros look like regular buses but are painted in white and purple, while older ones are ominous looking and painted in green and grey. Smaller eseros cost 4 pesos for shorter trips, 4.50 pesos for 6–12 km trips and 5 pesos for 12+ km trips. Full-sized private buses are 5 pesos for shorter trips, and 6 pesos for longer trips.

Mexico City Microbus

All buses are supposed to stop at bus stops, but microbuses are usually willing to stop anywhere as long as there are no police nearby. In the inner city, bus stops are usually small bus shelters with metal seats. In other areas, they might be unmarked and you can reasonably assume that a bus will stop just before a big intersection. Routes are also very complex and flexible, so be sure to ask someone, perhaps the driver, if the bus even goes to your destination ("va a ...?"), 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 safer and more comfortable than the private franchised and smaller microbuses, which are more prone to robbery and often 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.

Turibus

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. 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.

By Metrobús and Mexibús

Mexico City Metrobus

The Metrobús is a BRT system that operates six routes (líneas) in dedicated lanes along Insurgentes, Eje 4 Sur, Eje 1 Poniente (Cuauhtémoc/Vallejo), Eje 3 Oriente and Eje 5 Norte Avenues. Line 1 is convenient for the Condesa/Roma area, Line 3 for Del Valle and the Centro Histórico and Line 4 has a route to/from the airport (with stops at terminals 1 and 2) that passes through the Centro Histórico. The Metrobús is safe but can be crowded.

Most routes cost 6 pesos to ride, while buses to/from the airport cost 30 pesos. In order to ride, you need a refillable smart card that must be bought in advance (16 pesos, including one fare). These cards can be used at the Metro and Tren Ligero as well. Lines 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 have enclosed stations with turnstiles where you pay. There are card vending machines at these stations. Line 4 has regular bus stops and you pay when boarding the bus. Cards are thus not sold there, but can be bought/recharged at convenience stores along the route. If you are just arriving and want to take the Metrobús from the airport, you can buy the card at the 7-Eleven shops in both terminals.

The Metrobús has stops approximately every 500m. Expect Line 1 to be crowded around the clock and other Lines to be crowded during rush hour, but it's a great way to move around very rapidly. There are branches in each route, buses that take multiple lines and buses that do not go all the way from terminal to terminal, so you must check the correct door to take the bus in your direction, as well as the bus' billboard before boarding to see which is the last stop they will visit. There are reserved boarding areas at the front of every bus (indicated on the platforms) for women, the handicapped and the elderly.

The Mexibús is a similar system covering areas of the State of Mexico (in the metropolitan area). There are 3 lines, all of which cost 6 pesos but use different smart cards. The Mexibús is reasonably safe, but pickpocketing and robbery do sometimes occur.

By trolley bus

Trolley buses 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 have lower frequencies and can be a little slower than regular buses, since they are unable to change lanes as quickly. There is a flat fare of $2 MXN on most lines and $4 MXN on the Eje Central, Eje 2 Sur and Eje 7 Sur lines. You pay in a coin box and bus drivers do not give out change. For tourists, the Eje Central line (Line A) is useful to go between the North and South bus stations or between these stations and the Centro Histórico.

By light rail

The Tren Ligero (Light rail) is operated by Electric Transport Services and consists of one single line that runs to Xochimilco, south of the city, from the Tasqueña Metro Station (Line 2, blue; alternatively you may see it spelled as Taxqueña). For tourists, it is useful if you plan to visit Xochimilco, the Dolores Olmedo Museum, the Anahuacalli Museum or the Azteca Stadium. The rate for a single ride is $3 pesos. The ticketing system works very similarly to the Metro, but the tickets are not the same. Tickets are sold at most stations along the line. Where they aren't, there is always a police officer guarding the entrance, next to whom there is a coin box where you can deposit the fare in coins (exact change or pay extra). You can also use the same smart card as in the Metro and Metrobús.

By taxi

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 8.6 pesos to get into the cab, and about 1.14 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, 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 communicte an emergency through these mediums. The free service is called Taxiaviso.

If you have a smartphone with internet access, you can also use the ridesharing apps Uber and Cabify, which allow you to set your destination beforehand and pay with a credit card. The app Yaxi allows you to order a safe regular taxi to your location.

By double-decker tourist bus

The Turibus is a sightseeing 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 $140 pesos Monday-Friday (around USD $8) and $165 pesos (USD $10) Saturday-Sunday. Children are half-price. Your ticket is valid for all routes. Runs 365 days a year. Its main route includes the Zona Rosa, Chapultepec Park, Polanco, Condesa, Roma and the Historic Center. There are three secondary routes running South, West and North. The South route runs from Fuente de la Cibeles in Condesa to Coyoacan and Xochimilco. The West route (Circuito Polanco) runs between Polanco and Chapultepec. The North route (Circuito Basílica) goes to Tlatelolco and the Basilica de Guadalupe.

The new Capitalbus has a similar service. It has a central route that includes the Centro Histórico, Reforma and Polanco, as well as a route west to the Santa Fe business district, and a North route to the Basílica de Guadalupe and various churches. Tickets cost $130 pesos for 6 hours, $140 pesos for 24 hours Monday-Friday, $180 pesos for 24 hours (Saturday-Sunday) and $250 pesos for 48 hours. Buses have Wi-fi.

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. Do note that the Metro stops running around midnight-ish and if you get lost late at night, taking a taxi is probably your best bet.

By car

Driving around by car is the least advised way to visit the city due to the complicated road structure, generally reckless drivers, and the 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 Periférico 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. Guia Roji sells good paper maps, and Google Maps and Apple Maps have good maps of the city.

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 certain days and hours (depending on the location). 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 hours during the day or certain days depending on the previous days' pollution levels, how new your car is, the last digit of your plate number (plates with all letters are automatically assigned a digit) and whether the car has passed the bi-yearly emission controls. Newer and electric vehicles (which are usually the case for rentals) have a 00 or 0 hologram sticker and are exempted from most regulations. You can check the cars that cannot circulate today at . 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 .

The visitor should take into consideration the following tips when driving: avenues have preference over streets and streets over closed streets. Continuous right turns even when traffic light red are not allowed from 2016. Seat belts are mandatory for all 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 give a bribe, but never offer one directly. Fines are usually cheap and can be paid at banks, supermarkets and convenience stores.

By bike

Cycling in most parts of Mexico City is difficult. Distances are long, many roads are wide, car drivers are aggressive and traffic can be hectic. However, the city government is making a serious effort to make cycling more attractive, installing dedicated cycle lanes along several main streets, including Reforma and around Chapultepec Park. Bicycle parking is available in/around most metro stations (such as Auditorio) and the central city. Cycling along dedicated lanes and smaller streets feels safe enough.

For more recreational cycling, the government closes off Reforma every Sunday morning for strollers, cyclists and other non-motorised transport . One Sunday a month, there is a much longer route. Other nice places to cycle include Chapultepec Park and the cycling path installed on the former railway line to Cuernavaca, which passes through Polanco and Lomas and reaches all the way to the Morelos state limits. Bicycles can be taken in the Metro and Tren Ligero on Sundays.

EcoBici rack along Avenida Juárez

See

Downtown Mexico City has been an urban area since the foundation of Tenochtitlán in 1325, 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. Mexico City has three World Heritage Sites: the Centro Histórico and Xochimilco, the house of architect Luis Barragán and the University City campus of UNAM. In addition, Mexico is one of the cities with the largest number of museums in the world.

Landmarks

Parks

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.

Museums

Mexico is the city with the largest number of museums in the world, to name some of the most popular:

Do

NASCAR race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

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.

Seasonal Celebrations

Amusement parks

Car races

Sport events

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 was the first in Latin America to host an Olympics, doing so in 1968; the majority of the city's sport facilities were built for that event.

Lucha libre

Lucha libre (loosely translated as "free fighting") is the term for the style of professional wrestling that developed in Mexico. Due to its affordable and entertaining nature, it is a favorite pastime throughout the country. While similar to professional wrestling elsewhere in that the outcomes are predetermined, it developed quite differently from wrestling in the rest of the world. Wrestlers, known in Mexico as luchadores, tend to work much faster than those in the rest of North America, employing complex chains of moves, numerous high-flying maneuvers, and often-realistic submission holds. Also, rings in Mexico often lack the spring supports used in many other countries, which means that wrestlers typically don't take falls landing on their back as they often do elsewhere. More often than not, aerial moves involve a wrestler launching himself outside of the ring at his opponent, allowing him to break his fall by tumbling. Finally, Mexican wrestling has far more weight classes than in other countries.

Another hallmark of lucha libre is the emphasis on tag team matches, which are most often made up of three-wrestler teams instead of the pairs that are common elsewhere. The rules are also significantly different.

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of lucha libre is the colorful masks worn by many performers. While the concept of the wrestling mask was borrowed from the U.S., it has become infused with the role that masks have long played in Mexican culture. Almost all luchadores will begin their careers wearing them, but most will lose their masks at some point in their careers. The biggest matches in lucha libre are luchas de apuestas (fights of bets), in which wrestlers will bet their masks, hair, or even their careers on the outcomes.

Concerts

Horse racing

Alternative Travel

Learn

Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporaneo, UNAM.

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 second 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:

Work

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.

Buy

Mexico City is famous among Mexicans for its huge malls, streets like Presidente Mazaryk offer haute couture stores.

Shopping Districts

Palacio de Hierro department store in Mexico City's historic center.

Shopping Centers

American-style shopping malls appeared in Mexico City by the late 1960s and are now are spread all over the metropolitan area. Here you will find some of the malls sorted by area.

Central

North

West

South

Outlet Malls

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.

Supermarkets

If you're staying longer you may want to buy groceries and food at any of the hundreds of supermarkets. You can use the store locators at their websites to find one close to you. 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.

Arabic

Korean

Japanese

Asian

Kosher

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.

Eat

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 (but expensive) 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 several Mexican chain family restaurants that can be assumed to be safe and similar no matter where you are, including Vips, Lyni's, Toks, and the more traditional Sanborns, all reminiscent of Denny's in the United States. They are uniformly good but never excellent. 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. Some of these offer very good food, are usually safe, and should range between $50 to $100.

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 puestos, street stands located on a sidewalk or almost anywhere there is room. Most of these serve the usual tacos or tortas (filled bread rolls similar to a sub or sandwich), and they can be very cheap ($10 to $50). Hygiene varies from good to abysmal, so eat at a place that has plenty of people. 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 a market, such as La Merced (the former 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, Papa John's Pizza, Domino's Pizza, TGI Friday's, Chili's, Dairy Queen, Subway, and yes, even Starbucks. These are all fairly affordable.

El Globo, a French-style bakery, has locations throughout the city selling both French and traditional Mexican pastries, like orejas (little ears), éclairs, 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. Chiles Rellenos are usually filled with meat, but different fillings are a definite standard in any vegetarian restaurant.

Restaurant basics

Tips Tipping (propina in Spanish) is expected, with 10% the standard for decent service at all sit-down restaurants. You can tip more for very good service (15%), or tip less or not 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 Coyoacán due to its evergrowing popularity.

Don't leave without trying

For a quick breakfast 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. They are often in the form of tortas de tamal.

Drink

In Mexico City you have an almost endless choice of options to party. Traveling by yourself at night in certain areas of 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.

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 foods, such as tacos (you should ask for 'Botana'). If your tolerance for Mexican music (mariachi or otherwise) 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.

A lower-end traditional option is going to a pulquería, where you can drink pulque (a gooey whitish drink). After being on a steep decline for decades, many are finding a new surge in popularity with young people. They can be found in the Centro Histórico and around Xochimilco. If you don't like pulque, they usually serve beer as well.

Many bars 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 characteristics 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.

Sleep

Embassy Suites hotel facing Cristobal Colon statue in Reforma.

The city has literally hundreds of hotels 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 and backpacker hostels. A wide variety of hotels can also be found along Paseo de la Reforma.

Budget

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.

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

To stay in contact while traveling in México City.

Phone

If someone is calling you the country code is +52 then the area code is 55 then the 8 digit phone number. For a mobile phone, you might need to add a 1 between the +52 and 55. If you want to make a long distance call in Mexico from a landline, you should dial the prefix 01 for national calls followed by the area code. From a mobile phone, start from 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 card, locally known as a "chip". This will get you a Mexican cell phone number. Remember this is a prepaid cellular option. You get free incoming calls. People calling you from long distance will need to dial in this format: +52 1 plus the area code 8 or 7 digit phone number. Mexico city (55), Guadalajara (33) and Monterrey (81) have 8 digit numbers, and 2 digit area codes. The rest of the country has 7 digit numbers and 3 digit area codes. There are no longer long distance charges within the country.

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. From a landline, you should dial the 044 prefix before the 10 digit number composed of the area code and the mobile number to be dialled, such as 044 55 12345678. From a mobile phone, just start from the area code.

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 thousands of mobile phone dealerships, or at OXXO convinence stores, and even supermarkets.

Mobile Telephones

There are four main cell phone operators in Mexico.

Internet

Mexico City has good access to the internet. There are some internet cafes throughout the city, many of them in Zona Rosa, but their number is rapidly dwindling as many people now have internet access on their smartphones. 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.

Free hot spots for wi-fi connection to the internet are available in several places around the city, particularly in public squares, along Reforma, and inside shopping malls, cafés and restaurants. Other hot spots around the city (such as at the airport and Sanborns restaurants) are not free, usually operated by the Mexican phone company Telmex through their Internet division Prodigy Móvil. 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.

Radio

Unfortunately there are no full-time English spoken radio stations in Mexico, however these are a few options to listen:

Newspapers

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.

Almost all national newspapers are based in Mexico City and have local news. Some of the most read newspapers include:

Free newspapers are often given away at intersections and metro stations, most commonly Publimetro.

Stay safe

Despite its reputation, travel in Mexico City is generally safe and most people find it surprisingly non-threatening. Areas around the historic center and other places where tourists usually go 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 as 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

There are pickpockets in Mexico City. Purses and bulky, full back 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, or tuck them away inside your clothes. A money belt might be a good option. The Metro or Subway system can get extremely crowded, which creates opportunities for pickpockets on cars that are often standing room only.

Do not show money in front of others as this generally attracts pickpockets. Protect your personal information, such as your PIN number when entering it at an ATM or bank terminal. When paying at a restaurant, it's best if you don't let your card be taken away but instead ask for the terminal to be brought to you or go where it is located.

Do not leave anything of value visible from your car window, 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. Most people in Mexico City are quite hospitable and some will speak English, and people who work for hotels and other hospitality-oriented businesses will always help. This will help in avoiding confusion, becoming lost or stranded. Also, you can ask a local for advice to get somewhere, though you might need basic Spanish to do this. In the Polanco, Sante Fe and Lomas districts, some police officers and many business people and younger children speak English, as it is very common to learn it in school.

The least safe places where tourists often go are around the North part of the Centro Historico, such as around Garibaldi square. Be extra vigilant if you go there at night. You can find a detailed crime map based on official statistics here.

Police officers

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 not all officers will want or accept them). The historic center and other major sites often have specially trained tourist police that speak English or other foreign languages and 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.

Air pollution

Mexico City air pollution index scale

Although the smog layer is visible nearly every day, its effects in terms of breathing and eye irritation are usually barely noticeable and it should not normally be cause for concern for visitors. That said, it makes sense for visitors to be aware of the issue.

Pollution is highest in the winter from late November to early February, especially when a greenhouse effect causes cold dirty air to be trapped under warm cleaner air. You can check the current air quality on the Atmospheric Monitoring System website, which updates every hour at several locations. 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 150 points, an "Environmental pre-contingency" is usually 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.

Earthquakes

Earthquakes are very common at the junction of the Pacific and North American tectonic plates, which meet close to the Mexican Pacific coast about 400 km (250 mi) away. This is far enough away from the city so that when an earthquake occurs, Mexico City has about a 30- to 90-second warning. This alarm is broadcast loudly from the speakers installed at the security cameras. It sounds like an air-raid alarm followed by a spoken recording ("Alerta Sísmica"). Should you hear this alarm or feel 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 places marked "safe zones." Since large parts of the city (Center, East and North) were built on the soft clay from the dry bed of lake Texcoco, earthquakes can feel quite powerful despite the distance.

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 many of Mexico City's inhabitants. Right after the 1985 earthquake, many buildings were reinforced and new buildings are designed to meet structural criteria by law. 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).

In case of emergency

Dial 066, the number for all emergencies (fire, police and medical).

Cope

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 some large cities, 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. If you clearly look like a foreigner, you will likely be approached by students wanting to practice their English. Sometimes they will want to record the conversation for a school assignment. If someone of importance (such as a police officer) approaches you for a particular purpose, 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.

Remember most Mexicans are very curious in regards to foreigners and are willing to help. If in need for directions, try to ask young people, who may speak a little English.

Driving

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. A GPS device is a big help. Sometimes potholes, fissures, and large-yet-unmarked speed-bumps ("topes") are common on the roads, so exercise some caution. Even at a small crawl, these can damage a car, especially in the backroads between towns in the Southern area. It should be advised that when driving, a fast succession of white lines cutting the road perpendicular means a 'tope' is approaching and you should slow down immediately.

When off the main roads, maneuvering in the narrow streets and alleys can be tricky. Often a paved road turns to cobblestone (in historic neighborhoods) or dirt (if this happens, you've gone way off the tourist areas). Also, some streets are blocked off behind gates and do not let drivers pass without stating their destination, converting them into small gated communities. If you are driving through small streets or 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 and the Metrobús often have exclusive lanes and the right of way when they don't. On streets with the Metrobús, left turns are not allowed.

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. It should also be noted 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.

Drinking

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 strictly prohibited—doing so will certainly get you in trouble with the police. Drunk driving is also strictly prohibited and punished with 24-72 hours of mandatory jail time. The police have incorporated random alcohol tests on streets near bars and clubs as well as highway exits to enforce this. The system is very efficient, and you will sometimes see a stopped car or truck with a policeman interrogating the occupants.

Smoking

Smoking inside enclosed areas in public buildings, restaurants and bars is strictly prohibited by law. 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. Personal use of electronic cigarettes is permitted.

Drugs

Small quantities of all drugs are decriminalised, but offenders could be imprisoned if found in possession of more than one personal dose. You don't want to go to jail while a judge determines if what you're carrying is a personal dose.

Embassies

Mexico City is home to a large number of embassies.

Go next

Routes through Mexico City

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