I’ve been living in and writing about Mexico City for almost five years now (wow, time flies!). It’s a city that can be hard to navigate at first so I hope these Mexico City travel tips serve as a way to make the planning process a whole lot easier.
Mexico City is one of the most densely populated cities in the whole world. It’s also sprawling and chaotic and beautiful and packed with history and culture that is well worth exploring.
But you already knew that.
That’s why you want to read some Mexico City travel tips in the first place.
If you read through all of these tips and you still want to know more, be sure to have a browse of the Mexico City section of this blog or sign up for free emails about Mexico City in the signup box below.
Helpful Mexico City Travel Tips
1. Think about what Mexico City neighborhood you want to be
One of the first things you should do when you start planning your trip to Mexico City is to figure out what neighborhood you want to stay in.
Getting around Mexico City isn’t impossible, but getting between the different suburbs can take a little bit longer than you might think. So it’s best to base yourself where you believe you’re going to spend the most time.
The major neighborhoods where tourists prefer to stay most include Roma, Condesa, Centro Historico, and Polanco. These are all quite centrally located neighborhoods and perfect for your first time in Mexico City.
If you want to stay somewhere different, you may want to consider Coyoacan. This is a beautiful neighborhood in the southern part of Mexico City with tons of things to see and do and some really great food.
However, you will be about a 30 minute Uber or metro-ride away from the downtown area.
2. Book a cool boutique hotel or stylish Airbnb
Mexico City has some seriously cool boutique hotels.
I’ve written reviews of my experience at Chaya B&B in the Centro Historico, Condesa Haus in Condesa, and La Palomilla B&B in Roma Norte.
These are all really well located, super stylish, and very comfortable. All of them include seriously delicious breakfast options and friendly front-desk staff who can help you plan your tours or recommend good local restaurants.
Alternatively, there are also more and more Airbnbs popping up in Mexico City (which of course are affecting rent prices in these neighborhoods, so something to consider).
These are my favorite Airbnb places in Mexico City that I’ve either stayed in myself or friends have stayed in while visiting.
3. Make your restaurant reservations in advance
If you want to check out the top restaurants in Mexico City like Pujol, Quintonil, Lorea, or Contramar, you will need to think about making these reservations at least two weeks in advance, if not more.
I made my Pujol and Quintonil reservations over a month in advance. You can only start booking two months in advance, but once you have your flights booked, you will definitely want to look into making these reservations if they are high on your priority list.
I have made video reviews of both Pujol (here) and Quintonil (here) which I think offer helpful insight if you are trying to choose between the two.
If you do miss a chance at booking a table at one of these places, I highly recommend checking out Sud 777 and Merotoro. Both are equally fantastic options and don’t tend to book out quite as quickly.
Be sure not to miss out on these other restaurant lists either:
- Best Restaurants in Condesa
- Best Restaurants in Polanco
- Best Restaurants in Roma
- Best Restaurants in Mexico City Right now
4. Take a food or history tour of the city
One of my biggest Mexico City travel tips is to spend a day or two with an expert. There are so many cultural activities in CDMX and you can get much deeper beneath the surface with a guide who really knows their stuff.
If you’ve never been to Mexico City before, I highly recommend at least taking a food tour. It’s a way to better understand the culture and people of this city.
The best foodie tour guides in Mexico City are Ubish Yaren of Mexico Underground and Anais of Devoured Tours. If you want to get to know the food scene in this city with a knowledgable local, you can’t go wrong with either of them.
If you really want to take a tour with either of these locals, be sure to book well in advance because they book out pretty quick.
I also highly recommend tours with Tasty Food Bites Tours. They are slightly more affordable while taking you around some of the absolute best restaurants in Roma and Condesa.
Their top chef tour is the perfect way to sample several of the best restaurants in these neighborhoods without having to make reservations or using up too many of your meals.
For fantastic historical tours of the city, the best in the business are Journeys Beyond the Surface. The guides are so incredibly passionate about Mexico City and every time I take one of their tours I feel so much more excited about this city that I call home (and I learn SO much, too).
5. Get Uber for your Phone
Uber in Mexico City is one of the safest and most convenient ways to get around.
Check out the blog post I’ve linked above to learn about taking it to and from the airport, how to download it if you’ve never used it before, how to use it in the city, and getting a discount code for your first few rides.
The alternatives to Uber here in Mexico are Didi and Cabify. I have complete instructions for using both of those in this blog post as well.
6. Download a metro app
The other way to get around Mexico City, especially during peak traffic times, is to take the metro.
People may try to convince you that it’s not safe, but in my opinion, it’s perfectly safe. If you are traveling as a woman, there are women-only cars to travel in.
It’s affordable, albeit a little bit dirty. However, it is one of the most efficient and affordable ways to get around Mexico City.
The only things you’ll need are Pesos (it’s 5 Pesos per trip) and a good map of the underground network. I use and love Mapway Mexico. You can get it on both Android and iPhone.
You can read my full guide to the Mexico City metro here.
7. Plot out your days
Just like you’ll want to plot out where to stay based on where you’ll spend the most time, you’ll also want to think about what you’re going to do each day so that you aren’t spending too much time commuting around the city.
For instance, don’t even think about trying to see Coyoacan in the morning, having lunch in Roma, then heading the Anthropology Museum in the afternoon and finishing with dinner in the Centro Historico.
You will spend most of your day sitting in traffic and you’ll no doubt miss most of your reservations if you make any.
Instead, think about trying to stay in similar zones for most of the day and using the metro to get between them.
I would suggest having a full day in the Centro Historico, another day for Roma and Condesa, at least half a day for Coyoacan (more if you want to check out all of the museums down there), another day for Teotihuacan, and another day for Xochimilco.
I have full a 7-Day itinerary here, a 5-day itinerary here, and a 3-day itinerary here.
8. Think about what purse or day bag you’re going to bring
While you shouldn’t worry about your safety that much, you should think about the fact that you are in a very busy major city and pickpocketing is possible.
When I’m going to neighborhoods like the Centro Historico or I’m going to a busy market like Merced or Jamaica, I usually bring a bag that has a zipper as well as a flap over the top. You can see my favorite travel bags here.
However, when I’m going to Roma, Condesa, Coyoacan, or Polanco, I tend to use whatever bag I want. I have a cloth bag that barely closes at the top, but I love how colorful it is. So I usually keep my valuables at the bottom of the bag and cover it all with a sweater.
I’ve never been pickpocketed in Mexico City in the almost five years that I’ve lived here. So I offer this as a Mexico City travel tip so that you are aware of the possibility, but it doesn’t mean anything is going to happen to you.
If you are at all concerned about safety in Mexico City read this blog post:
or watch this YouTube video (and be sure to read the comments about what previous visitors have talked about their safety experiences in the city):
Is it Safe to Travel to Mexico City?
As for guys, keep your things in your front pockets. When riding the metro or in a busy part of the city, simply keep your hands in your pockets on your wallet and phone.
9. Consider the best times of year to visit Mexico City
There are two main seasons in Mexico City, wet and dry.
The dry season is from November to May and the wet season from June to October.
These, of course, are not totally set in stone. Sometimes the rain comes in April or May. Sometimes it lasts through the first week of November.
That being said, if you want to visit when it’s warmest, consider March and April.
If you want to escape the winter up north, just know that you’re not going to experience beach weather here in January. It can be relatively chilly (as low at the 50s Fahrenheit at night or 10-12C).
You’ll also want to consider whether to visit Mexico City at Christmas time or if you want to enjoy it for New Year’s Eve. There’s Day of the Dead in Mexico City as well which has become more and more popular.
10. Pack for four seasons in a day
Even if you choose the driest time of year to visit or you plan and are ready for wet season rains in July, you’ll likely experience some strange weather while you’re in Mexico City.
On a July day, it can be nice and cool in the mornings, then incredibly hot at midday. By 3pm it’s pouring with rain and at 5pm it’s freezing again and there are puddles everywhere.
Pack for multiple seasons in a day and check out my Mexico City packing guide here.
Be aware that Mexico City is not Cancun or Playa del Carmen. The weather is cooler and there is little to no humidity. It can be chilly at night and even sometimes during the middle of the day.
11. Remember that Mexico City is VERY high up
Mexico City sits at 7,382 feet (2,250 meters).
That’s higher than Denver or Colorado Springs or Santa Fe, New Mexico.
If you’ve been living mostly at or near sea level, this altitude may be a slight shock to the system.
You likely won’t notice it right away. You may feel thirsty or have a dull headache.
The time that you’ll notice is it is when you exert yourself.
You’ll notice it when you’re walking up a set of stairs with your luggage, when you’re riding a bike along Paseo de la Reforma, and you’ll definitely notice it when you climb the steps of Teotihuacan.
One of the biggest Mexico City travel tips that I can offer you is to let yourself adjust. Don’t rush into trying to do a ton of strenuous activities on your first or second day in the city.
Also, drink plenty of water. It will help with any headaches you may start to get.
12. Find out if you need a SIM card
Call your phone provider before you leave for Mexico to see if you are able to use your phone and data package free of charge while you’re in Mexico.
I have a Sprint contract in the US and have continued to keep my number and phone plan here in Mexico because it works as normal for no extra cost.
If you are not able to use your phone as normal and you want to use Uber and other data while you’re here, getting a SIM card is very simple. Just be sure that your phone is unlocked for international use (you’ll likely have to call your phone company for this to be done).
To get a SIM card in Mexico, simply head to a 7-11 or Oxxo (similar type of convenient store) and ask for a Telcel SIM card. This is the easiest one to start with right away. For 200 Pesos ($10 USD) you can have 30 days of unlimited data, texts, and calls).
13. Exchange money before you come (and then take the rest out using ATMs here in Mexico City)
The best exchange rate that you’ll get for Dollars to Pesos will be at your bank.
I always tell people they should come with about $100 USD worth of Pesos. That will last you a long while.
You don’t need to use cash all the time. Most hotels, restaurants, and shops accept credit or debit cards. Just be sure you have a card that doesn’t charge you international fees.
If you need more cash, I find that the banks continue to win on the exchange front. You can simply take cash out of any ATM here in Mexico. The best banks in my opinion for that here are HSBS, BBVA, and CitiBanamex (which is Citibank).
I use Charles Schwab as my bank in the US and they refund me all of my ATM fees incurred both in the US and internationally.
14. Sign up for a bike or Scooter app
If you want to explore the city above ground while still avoiding the traffic, bicycles and scooters are the best way to do it.
There are tons of bike and scooter options around the city.
For regular bicycles, you can download the Mobike app. These are orange bikes that are scattered around Polanco and Roma but you can take them to several different neighborhoods.
For electric bikes, there’s the Jump bikes, which is really just Uber. You should be able to use your Uber app without downloading a separate app for this.
This is a good guide to how to use the local Eco-Bici bicycles that are all over the city. It’s the most affordable and convenient option if you can get it working.
For scooter options, check out the Lime scooter app and the Bird scooter app.
15. Consider getting out of the city for a day trip
It can be tempting to spend all of your time exploring the city, but one of my top Mexico City travel tips is to get out and see the surrounding region.
The Mexico bus network makes getting out and exploring quite easy. You can also use the app Bla Bla car, which is quite popular in this region of the country, to share rides with others who are driving to the same destination.
There are easy days trips from Mexico City like Puebla, Cholula, Teotihuacan, and Xochimilco. There are places where you may want to spend a bit more time like Valle de Bravo or Tepoztlan.
16. Spend MORE time in Teotihuacan!
Speaking of places where you’ll want to spend a bit more time. Teotihuacan is so much more than just the pyramids.
I totally understand that you may not have a ton of time on your trip to Mexico City, but if you can spare one full day, you will be able to really get to know that region of the country a little bit better.
You can take a bike tour around the outlying ruins with Teotihuacan en Bici.
You can take a hot air balloon ride over the pyramids with Sky Balloons.
You can cook and eat pre-hispanic food at El Porton.
17. Don’t be afraid of the street food (or the water for that matter!)
Street food in Mexico is part of the foodie experience here. Mexican food is so much more than just tacos (although you’ll want to have plenty of those, too!).
Walk down the street at lunchtime on a weekday (usually between 2 and 3pm) and you’ll see people in suits standing shoulder to shoulder with taxi drivers and shop workers all eating tacos and tortas on the street.
Get familiar with the different street foods you’ll see and then head out and find a busy spot. The busier it is, the more turnover there is for the food.
Sure, you might get a gurgly tummy from the different bacterias or oils that are used, but there’s almost nothing to fear.
That goes for drinking water in Mexico, too.
Of course, avoid the tap water, but no need to avoid water in restaurants or ice in your drinks. Everyone in the city uses purified water, even the taco stands.
18. Make space for souvenirs
The markets and local shops in Mexico City are filled with goodies made by local artisans. Whether it’s a blanket, a sweater, a hat, or something decorative, you’re bound to be attracted to at least one thing on your travels around Mexico City.
These are my favorite places to shop for souvenirs in Mexico City and where I always take visitors when they come.
19. Make time for the museums
Mexico City is second only to Paris for cities in the world with the most museums. There are over 150 museums in this city and you should make time for at least a handful of them.
If you want to understand more about the history of the country check out the Anthropology Museum, Templo Mayor, and Chapultepec Castle.
Art lovers won’t want to miss Museo Soumaya, The National Art Museum, or Bellas Artes.
Interested in Frida and Diego? There are countless places to visit including the Frida Kahlo House, Annahuacalli, Diego and Frida’s studios, the National Palace, and the Diego Rivera Mural Museum.
20. Be sure to check out the nightlife
There are plenty of great places to explore by day, but don’t forget to fill a few of your evenings, too.
Mexico City is home to the #1 bar in Latin America (and recently ranked #10 in the world), Limantour. They make seriously good cocktails.
There are tons of great craft beer bars, rooftop bars, and little clubs tucked away down side streets or through parking lots.
21. Visit some uniquely Mexico City markets
There are almost as many markets as there are museums in Mexico City (maybe more?).
Some of the ones that you won’t want to miss include Mercado Jamaica for all the flowers, Merced for the chaos and great food, San Juan for the strange foods on offer, and Medellin for the amazing tacos and produce from around Latin America.
On Sundays, take a tour of La Lagunilla market. It’s a huge antique market where you can find just about anything, including delicious food and drinks.
22. Being Vegetarian and Vegan in Mexico City is hard, but not impossible
Being vegetarian in Mexico City isn’t too hard. You can easily find food without meat, but still topped with cheese and cream.
Being vegan in the city is slightly harder. However, there are more and more vegan and vegetarian restaurants popping up around the city. Most restaurants also have at least one dish on the menu that doesn’t have meat in it and you can usually ask for it without dairy.
There are just a few things to be aware of. Often at street stalls, if there is no meat in it, they will tell you it’s vegetarian. However, things like beans are usually cooked with pork fat. Sometimes tamales are even made with pork fat.
One place I highly recommend checking out is Por Siempre Vegana. It is by far the best vegan option in the city that still allows you to get the flavors that this country is famous for.
23. Understand the healthcare system and consider travel insurance
Healthcare in Mexico is significantly cheaper than in the US. That being said, you may still want to consider getting coverage for your trip in case of an emergency.
Mexico has a public healthcare system, but as a visitor, you are not eligible to use it. You would need to go to a private hospital (the better option anyway to be honest). An emergency operation could still cost upwards of $1,000 or more.
If you get travelers diarrhea or start to feel unwell and it’s not an emergency, you can go to any pharmacy in Mexico City and explain your symptoms to the pharmacist (some speak English, but you may need to use google translate).
Usually, things that cure the common cold can be handled over the counter, including some antibiotics.
I always use World Nomads when I travel because it’s straightforward, affordable, and easy to claim. Get a quote from World Nomads here.
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