Mexico City. Perspective.
Mexico City. It was the day after the Presidential election and part of me thought what better way to honor such an unfairly misunderstood country, in particular by the President Elect, than to visit and discover the charms of the wonderful people and the many beautiful sights and sounds of Mexico City. Honestly, I never thought about the timing, but the cheap round trip fare had something to do with it. Distrito Federal did not disappoint and escaping the news and the fallout following the election back home was also a blessing.
Mexico City is historical, modern, walkable, friendly, and very affordable for budget minded tourists. More on some practicalities and helpful suggestions later, but for now the goods.
The photo of the very modern and unforgettably curvy building is a passionate representative of the Chilangos, slang demonym for the City residents. Museo Soumaya at the ritzy Nuevo Polanco district was commissioned by the billionaire Carlos Slim, designed by his son-in-law Fernando Romero, and dedicated to Slim’s late wife Soumaya Domit. With collections from Rodin, Monet, Dali, and Rivera to name a few, the museum has one of the most complete collections of its kind. The stylish interior with serpentine causeway extends the elegant exterior of the museum. We spent much of the time marveling and admiring the exterior as much as the interior, as the metal hexagonal tile is just as fascinating. There’s no shortage of selfies taken or the relaxing nature of passing the time people watching.
The city is very walkable and the metro is super efficient and cheap at $.25 per person, which includes all the connections you need to get to and from here and there. I’ve never experienced such great metro system for such a bargain! My wife Jenn and I walked most of the time, to take it all in and also wanted to interact with as many locals as we can. Mexico City has a great skyline with unique high rises, especially along one of the major avenues, Paseo de la Reforma, eventually leading to the City’s version of Central Park, Bosque de Chapultepec.
If you like Barcelona or Buneos Aires, you’ll love Mexico City. The best part for Californians and others in the Southern States is the short flight to making you feel like you’re much farther away, but only four hours by air to hang and chill with the Chilangos. Eclectic city with great restaurants, museums, nightlife, and centuries old archeological sights about an hour away by bus at a bargain price, my wife and I will be making our annual visit to DF.
Some Practical Information:
Wherever I travel, once you have figured out transportation, place to stay, and a cool bar/cafe to chill, the basics have been covered and you can free up the gray matter for fun in the new environment.
The cost of the total trip was just over $1000 for both of us. We flew Southwest Air from John Waynes OC to Mexico City with a flight time of four hours direct. Our stay with AirBnB in the Zona Rosa was a perfect location and walking distance to most attractions. We took a taxi from the airport to our Air BnB and returned to Terminal One via the Metro. Travel time to and from is about 45 min.
Metro is cheap, but as the Lonely Planet Guide book warns, during rush hours, you’ll get very personal with other commuters. We had our LP Guidebook and advice on Mex City from our friend Eric. Our host with Air BnB also provided some helpful guidance once we arrived.
Is the City safe? Yes! On the scale of one to ten, with a ten being uber safe like Tokyo or Copenhagen…Pleasantville and a one being “holy shitaki” a war zone. Mexico City is as safe as Los Angeles and San Francisco and safer than Chicago, Sao Paulo, or Johannesburg. I would give it a four on my safety scale, but ultimately any city is safe as your common sense IQ. We experienced no problems and on the contrary, the City folks were helpful and friendly.
Working knowledge of Spanish helps and my limited conversational Spanish was useful, but if you’re animated and expressive of your needs, you’ll do fine. If you don’t speak the lingo, speaking loudly and adding “a’s” to end of English words will not guarantee communication success.
Credit cards widely accepted, but had about $200 equivalent of pesos in smaller denomination for street food and arts and crafts purchased. Plenty of banks and automated machines around.
Favorite restaurants: Casa Bell and Fonda el Refugio for lunch/dinner. BTW, main meal is during midday here. As for cafes for breakfast and pastries, you can’t beat the internationally renowned Eric Kayser bakery. Service in restaurants in Mexico is as good as it gets. Sample meal at one of the higher end restaurants: for $40-$50, filet mignon, beer/wine, café, and postre (dessert in English and my wife’s favorite word in Spanish) for both of us, including tip (10%-20%...we happily tipped 20% most of the time for the level of professional service received). Food is a lot cheaper via street vendors and ma and pa restaurants.
Transportation once again is awesome! Take radio taxis when possible rather than hailing taxis for safety. Metro is really easy and cheap. Download Mex City Metro app to help you navigate around the city if taking metro and works offline as well! Pay as you go bike stands all around the city similar to many cities in Europe is super cool and efficient. We walked most of the time, putting in between five to seven miles of walking per day to balance out all the food we consumed. Bus to see the pyramids is a breeze. We opted to take the metro to the airport for return flight. Took about 45 min from the city center to Terminal One Southwest Air check in.
I have to ask Donald. Bro, do you even travel? Overall, while Mexico is well known for the beautiful resort towns along the coast, I think you'll be equally impressed with its capital city. Wife and I can't wait to go back and spend more time with our new friends in DF!