Mexico City (CDMX) Travel Guide

Mexico City is not only one of the largest, but also, one of the most exciting cities in the world. You may need more that a couple days to see all this beautiful city in Mexico has to offer. I had the opportunity to visit Mexico City in October of 2018 and completely fell in love with how unique the city is.

To help you plan, here is an in-depth travel guide to Mexico City - perfect for the first-time visitor in the world's tenth largest city.

Jump to:
Altitude Sickness in Mexico City | Best Month to Visit | Best Airport |
Arrival Tips | Mexico districts | Mexico City by Subway | Are Mexico City Taxis safe? |
Uber in Mexico City? | Things to Do in Mexico City | Best Hotels in Mexico City |
Mexico City Guidebooks |

Mexico City Quick Facts

Language: Spanish but most locals speak at least a bit of English
Money: Pesos
Outlets: If you’re visiting from the US, you won’t need to bring a power converter, Mexican power outlets are the same as the US (A/B)

Will I Experience Altitude Sickness in Mexico City?

Mexico City sits about 7,300 feet above sea level – so yes you might. You’ll want to prepare yourself and think about the consequences of the altitude. If you have never experienced being ‘at altitude’ I highly encourage you to take it extremely seriously. Some people have breathing difficulties at high altitudes and experiencing fatigue and nausea is common.

Personal Experience: My first time at altitude was in Aspen (about 8400 feet above sea level). I arrived to find my room wasn’t read so I went on a small walk to get coffee and lunch. By the time I was walking back to the hotel the altitude made me feel like I had downed 10 shots of tequila. Basically, I felt drunk. I couldn’t walk steadily, felt like I was about to puke and also fall asleep at the same time. It was weird.

To combat altitude sickness you should drink plenty of water when you arrive and most of all, you should rest. Sit in your hotel/room and just breath. Remember to apply sunscreen generously the entire time you’re there and take it easy (read: limit your alcohol intake) the first few days you arrive. 

Best Month to Visit Mexico City

If you want to visit Mexico City when it has the best weather plan your trip sometime between March and May. Although the streets are pretty crowded this time of year you’ll find beautiful weather in Mexico City between March and May.

If you plan to go outside of these months remember that the city's winters can be chilly and the summers are considered very rainy.

Best Airport in Mexico City

By far the best way to get to Mexico City by plane is flying into Benito Juárez International Airport (code: MEX). The airport is located in the eastern part of the city and has two terminals. T2 is mostly used for Sky Team airlines. There are so many flights available from cities across the US so it shouldn’t be too expensive to get to Mexico City.

Arrival into Mexico City Airport

Benito Juárez International Airport - the best airport to use for travel to Mexico City

If you arrive on an international flight, you will go through (in this order) Immigration, baggage claim and then Customs. Be sure to fill out all the forms prior to landing to make the long-ish process a smooth one. Frustratingly, many airlines do not hand out forms on the flight. Ask your flight attendant if they have any extra on board.

The entire process, from your plane touching down to exiting customs, usually takes around an hour. After completing customs, head through the large doors to the waiting area for international arrivals. This area is usually extremely crowded.

The airport offers great rates on changing your currency so I suggest doing it before you leave the airport. When you arrive in the airport terminal, there are several bank ATMs, bank offices, and currency changers. If you change your currency at the bank, you will need to show your passport.

Understand Just How Big Mexico City Actually Is…

Districts inside Mexico City -   Source

Districts inside Mexico City - Source

The Mexico City metropolitan area is one of the world's largest and you really need to understand the layout of the city and where the popular attractions are to pick a good place to stay. Also, Mexico City has the largest city by population in North America, with an estimated 26 million people living in the metropolitan area. So yeah, it gets crowded.

Mexico City is divided up into 16 delegaciones (or districts). You can think of these like the boroughs in New York - Queens is different than Brooklyn which is different than Manhattan.

Inside the 16 delegaciones are "colonias" (or neighborhoods). To keep with the NYC comparison… this is like how inside the borough of Manhattan you have neighborhoods like Midtown, the West Village, Lower East Side, or Harlem.

Knowing what colonia you're going to is essential to getting around, almost all locals will know where a given colonia is. But of course things can get confusing because there are some colonias with duplicate or very similar names.

If you are planning a trip to Mexico City I highly recommend reading this article that details what each of the Mexico City districts are known for and the main attractions inside.

Getting Around Mexico City

Mexico City is a huge place - have I mentioned that? You should know that driving is definitely not the best way to travel around the city. Traffic can be a nightmare. Instead focus on using the extremely safe and reliable subway system in Mexico City.

Mexico City by Metro

Mexico City’s subway system, simply known as The Metro, is one of the largest and most used subway systems in the world. There are 12 different lines to choose from. Over 7.6 million people ride every day and it isn’t unusual to see trains filled to capacity. Some rides may even be hot and uncomfortable. Have I convinced you to use the metro yet?

Keep reading. Because despite the down sides, CDMX Metro is relatively quick and efficient.
Pro Tip: During rush hours (when the streets are basically parking lots) you should definitely opt for the metro over a cab.

You should definitely use the safe and reliable metro while in Mexico City. Source

Cost of Mexico City Metro:
Just another reason to use the metro… it’s extremely affordable. Tickets for one trip (with unlimited transfers) cost only 5 pesos.

Trains run every couple of minutes, so if you just missed one, you won't have to wait long for another to arrive. The stations usually have food stalls inside and outside the entrances, and many even have artwork on display.

Mexico City Operating Hours:
During the weekdays the metro is open from 5 AM to midnight. Saturday rides begin at 6 AM and Sunday they begin at 7 AM. If you plan to stay out beyond midnight you’ll have to find another way home.

Last tip: The metro is extremely safe and compared to taxis (more on that below). This is a huge reason why you should use the Mexico City metro first and foremost.

Mexico City Taxis

Although safety has improved recently there is some danger when it comes to catching cabs in Mexico City. Taxi robberies, also known as "express kidnappings", sometimes occur. They sound way worse than they are… What will happen is the victim is robbed and then taken on a trip to various ATMs to max out their credit cards.

I hope I haven’t scared you too much. If you do want to take a cab here are some ways to avoid getting scammed:

  • Look for special license plates. The registration number starts with "A" for free-roaming taxis, and with "B" for base taxis. Base taxis are safer.

  • A license will be displayed inside the taxi. Look for it mounted somewhere above the windshield. Do a quick check to see that the photo of the driver on the license is of the actual driver.

  • All taxis in Mexico city have meters. You are almost certainly going to be robbed if a taxi does not have a meter.

If you are still nervous but don’t want to use the Mexico City Metro you can use radio taxis instead. These taxis are called by phone (from most restaurants and hotels). They are extremely reliable and safe. The trade off is they are a bit pricier than other types of taxis. The good news is radio taxis will give you the price for a trip on the phone when you order them.

Last tip: The risks are usually higher at night. If you are going to use a cab, especially past midnight, only use a radio taxi.

Is there Uber in Mexico City?

Yes! And they are very easy and safe to use.

If you’re new to Uber, use this code to get a discount off of your first two rides: tessaj350ue

Also, compared to Uber in NYC or in the UK, Uber in Mexico City is extremely cheap by comparison. You can see fare estimates for Mexico City here. For example: If you are going from a hotel on Paseo de Reforma to Coyoacán, it will probably cost about 125 pesos or just over $6. Not bad considering (depending on the time of day) that ride is around 40 minutes.

You can also Uber from the airport to your hotel in the city center. These will most likely be the most expensive Ubers you will run into. For example: If you take an Uber from the airport to the city center it can cost anywhere between 130 pesos and 200 pesos. This of course highly depends on the time of day and the traffic. But it’s nice to understand that with an Uber in Mexico City the most you’ll spend is just over $10.

You should know of course, that like most other cities that have Uber, the price can vary depending on how many drivers are in the area, how many people are calling Ubers at the same time, and how bad the traffic is.

Things to do in Mexico City

Where to Stay in Mexico City

Mexico City has hundreds of hotels and hostels to choose from. The price will vary from district to district and you should try and stay where you think you’re more likely to do things. This will help you avoid the trouble of traveling to and from your destination on the Metro or taking a chance with your safety in a cab.

  • Zona Rosa is the largest tourist center for hotels with many options at the mid-range price. You’ll find a wide variety of hotels along Paseo de la Reforma. This is actually the area where I stayed. I spent 5 nights at the Sheraton and had a fantastic time.
    You can read my full review of that hotel here.

  • Polanco district is the best choice if you want to go for a more high-end hotel.

  • Centro Histórico has the most options for budget hotels, sublet apartments, and backpacker hostels.

Final Thoughts

Planning a trip to Mexico, and Mexico City in general is overwhelming. Everyone has an opinion on this beautiful location. Rest assured that no matter what you choose to do or where you choose to stay you'll have a beautiful time. 

One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a Mexico travel guide along with you. Here are some books I recommend...

One of the most common questions on here…what is the best camera for travel photography? I personally love my Nikon D5600. I use the kit lens and a Sigma wide-angle lens (for Nikon) which I am genuinely obsessed with.

Read on: Full list of travel gear I use on every trip

And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (tessajuliette at gmail dot com). 

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