8 Tips to Prepare for a Trip to Mexico City
I recently traveled to Mexico City and loved it. I kept hearing that it was unsafe and even had people try to convince me not to go. But I wanted to visit it for many reasons: I love Mexican food, the Spanish language, art and big cities that offer a variety of things to do. Plus, I had some digital nomad friends who were nomading there at that time, so I knew that I wouldn’t be completely alone.
Before heading there, I did a lot of research to ensure I was ready for my trip, so I thought I would write this to save you some work if you’re planning to go – I hope you go because it really is a beautiful city!
Here are some tips to prepare for a trip to Mexico City
1. Check travel advisories
This should be done anytime you travel anywhere, but particularly before traveling to Mexico City. There is always a list of places to avoid due to violence and crime. Thankfully, everytime I check, none of them seem to be in the main areas of Mexico City, but you never know. I check the Mexico travel advisories on the Government of Canada website.
No matter how much you read and hear about crime on any Government or media website, it’s important to remember that you can have a fun and safe trip to Mexico. I never once felt unsafe during my trip, because I stayed in safe, residential areas and visited more crowded, ‘local,’ places with tours or locals.
2. Research Neighborhoods and Areas
I’ll save you some of the main research work and tell you what many people told me before I headed there.
The best neighborhoods to stay in are La Condesa and Roma Norte. They are both modern neighborhoods that have a mix of residential areas (beautiful apartments) and a lot of international restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Both these areas are popular with expats, students, young professionals and tourists and are walkable – you can walk from one of these neighborhoods to another in 10 to 30 minutes, depending where you start.
You’ll definitely want to visit the city centre where you’ll see the Zócalo, one of the largest city squares in the world. You can walk to the city centre from La Condesa or Roma Norte in 45 minutes to an hour. Just like in any big city like Rome, Paris and Barcelona, always be aware of your surroundings – there are lots of pickpockets. Go with others or join a free walking tour like I did. I would avoid walking around the city centre at night.
You’ll want to avoid these neighborhoods: Doctores,Tepito, Iztapalapa, Ciudad Neza and Colonia del Valle. I had read that lots of crimes happen in those areas, and when I got to Mexico City, a few people including tour guides mentioned that I should avoid them.
You can also get out of Mexico City and take day trips to visit the Teotihuacan pyramids, Coyoacán, San Ángel and Xochimilco. I’ll write another post specifically about these.
3. Join digital nomad / expat communities or Facebook groups
If you’re traveling alone, it helps to make some friends and connections before heading there, that way you can plan to meet up and explore with others. Here are some ways of doing that:
Join the following Facebook groups:
You can also join Meetup groups once you’re there – simply search for Meetups that are happening in Mexico City – when I was there, I hosted a Meetup in my worldwide creative community Meetup group.
4. Know some basic Spanish
No hablas español? It would help to learn at least some basic sentences or at the very least, get a translation app on your phone. When I first arrived, I took a taxi to my hotel, and the taxi driver didn’t speak English – most taxi or Uber drivers won’t speak English. Also, at the first hotel I stayed at, none of the staff at the front desk spoke English. It really helps to show that you are at least trying to say a few words in Spanish – it makes the people really happy and in some cases, they are nicer to you. One of my Uber drivers was so glad that I spoke Spanish, that he proceeded to give me a mini-tour and recommendations!
5. Get the Uber app and make sure it works on your phone
I didn’t realize that the best and cheapest way to get around Mexico City is by Uber. Uber is super cheap there, most of my rides cost $3-$5. I didn’t have the Uber app, so I downloaded it there. But since my phone number is an international phone number, it always took longer to call a ride as it wanted to verify my number each time.
6. If you go in summer or fall, be prepared for rain and cold weather
I traveled at the end of July / beginning of August and I figured, ‘hey, it’s Mexico, it’ll be nice and warm!’ But I was wrong! Rainy season in Mexico City runs from May to October, and July and August are the two rainiest months – talk about timing! It was also colder than I had anticipated and I didn’t bring enough warm clothes. Bring an umbrella, a rain jacket, a few pants and sweaters and shoes that cover your feet – you’ll need them!
7. Bring really good walking shoes
Not only will you be doing a lot of walking, the city is not flat. Any tour you take will tell you about how Mexico City was built on a valley surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. At one point, it was completely covered with water. Thousands of years ago, the indigenous people constructed canals and chinampas (floating gardens or ‘artificial islands’) to grow crops. The lakes were drained centuries ago by the Spanish, but today, the valley that once was is now covered with soil, stones and layers of volcanic rocks. All this to say, bring really good walking shoes! I loved my waterproof Vessis, they took me everywhere! (see pic at the right). Here’s a code to get $20 off your first purchase of $100 or more on a pair Vessis.
8. Get travel health insurance that makes sense
If you’re looking for travel health insurance, I recommend SafetyWing because it’s much cheaper than the average Canadian or American travel health insurance – depending which Canadian/American insurance company you go with, coverage for a two-week trip is $200-$300 USD. That’s almost the price of one plane ticket!
Last year, when I had to extend a trip, I learned from other digital nomads that I was overpaying for travel health insurance. I learned that SafetyWing charges $42 per month!
It covers you in case of medical and travel emergencies in more than 185 countries, and if you’re the adventurous type like me, you’ll be happy to know that you’ll be covered if something happens while you’re doing an adventurous activity.
SafetyWing is now one of my affiliate partners, so next time you travel check them out with this link, and they’ll know I sent you. You just need to be outside of your home country to buy it.
Have you been to Mexico City? Was there anything that you wished you knew before going? Or are you planning to go and have any questions or concerns? Let me know in the comments!