From the Mayan Ruins to the diverse culture and some of the greatest food on the planet, Mexico stands as one of the most interesting places around. Its history-rich land gives way to modern-day structures in the countries capital, Mexico City. What other places can you go and lay on some of the greatest white sand beaches one day to walking 1000’s year-old Mayan ruins the very next day and then settling in for the night in a modern motel after eating world-renowned food rich with exotic spices grown locally? Mexico City has got to be one of the greatest iconic places on the planet. If y...
From the Mayan Ruins to the diverse culture and some of the greatest food on the planet, Mexico stands as one of the most interesting places around. Its history-rich land gives way to modern-day structures in the countries capital, Mexico City. What other places can you go and lay on some of the greatest white sand beaches one day to walking 1000’s year-old Mayan ruins the very next day and then settling in for the night in a modern motel after eating world-renowned food rich with exotic spices grown locally? Mexico City has got to be one of the greatest iconic places on the planet. If you do not live in this great city, everyday cruise ships from the gulf coast of the US can be seen leaving or entering the ports along the countries east side, destination Mexico City.
A tourist attraction is one way to describe Mexico City, but it has become a hot spot for those wanting to wind down their hectic lives and find true peace and tranquility in the deep color of the Pacific Ocean. Understanding that the population of Mexico City, alone, has grown by more than 20 million people in just over 110 years is a big testament to that fact. From 500,000 in 1900 to 21.2 million people in 2012 – the city’s growth has been nothing short of monumental. Mexico City is the capital of the country and for that, you can expect modern-day buildings reaching into the sky and all the modern-day activities and venues one would need to be truly at home in this exotic home away from home for millions of people.
And who can forget Mexico is the home of Tequila! Cocktails and infusions. Tequila has made its mark on the city, the country more broadly as well as neighboring states. Come to Mexico City to relax on the white beaches, walk the historical paths that will take you deep into the forested areas to ruins long forgotten, come for the food, the tequila but above all come to experience some of the greatest tourist attractions on the planet. But if this is not tantalizing enough, Mexico City is home to the largest number of museums in the world numbering over 160 to date, and on Sundays’s the entrance fees are almost always waived. Mexico City has more than 100 art galleries, 30 concert halls and boasts the fourth-highest number of theaters in the world, second only to New York, Toronto, and London.
If you are an educator or education buff, yourself, Mexico City will not let you down. The City is home to the oldest university in the Americas and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site which really adds to the entire continent’s respect when it comes to general education and science. The University is also the largest in the Americas. There is no question as to why the majority of Mexico’s former presidents are alumni of UNAM.
Mexico City’s climate is only partly a result of its latitude. It sits at a minimum altitude of 2,250 meters, and it is generally recognized that temperatures are a few degrees lower than they would be at sea level at the same latitude. Indeed, there are significant altitude differences within the City itself. Daytime temperatures are rarely below 15C but that is chilly for people who are used to figures 10C higher.
Springtime with temperatures in the mid-20Cs by day is a great time to visit Mexico’s capital. Average nighttime temperatures get into double figures after the winter and stay there until November. Between June and September, there is little temperature change, but this is the rainy season. You should carry a jumper or jacket in the evenings throughout the year, but you will need a little more than that in the winter.
The peak tourist season are the months between March and May. If you are looking for the best prices and fewer crowds, that is during the rainy season. The rain often just comes in the shape of an afternoon or early evening showers. If you are happy with that, June to September may be for you.
Mexico’s currency is the peso, and it converts around 20 to a US Dollar. You may be able to pay in dollars in some places, but you are likely to get a better deal if you pay in peso. Credit cards and debit cards are used widely throughout the City and you can get pesos using your cards at ATM but will be charged for the transaction. You will need cash to pay for taxis, small bills and even for admission to some museums and landmarks. Visitors should take care because the $ symbol is also used for the peso so you could pay far too much if you are careless.
The Exchange Bureaus (Casa de Cambio) are open for longer hours than banks, and the queues are likely to be shorter. There is a daily limit to how much money you can change, this is a national law aimed at combatting money laundering.
Tipping is not compulsory but is welcomed everywhere. It will certainly help you for future service in the same place. The service industry is not well paid. You can tip chambermaids daily, so the right person gets the reward, 50 pesos maximum. You may find a service charge on a restaurant bill so check and add a little more if you think it is deserved. In a bar, 20 extra pesos a drink is fair. Tour guides may be worth 100 pesos and if it is a private tour, sometimes double that for a full day. Taxi drivers are only usually given a tip if they assist with luggage.
You might think that Mexico’s proximity to the USA might result in more of its Spanish-speaking citizens speaking English but that is not really the case outside the places wealthier citizens frequent. You will find the hotels will have some staff that understand English and restaurant menus are regularly translated into English. Mexico City gets a huge number of overseas tourists each year and they find few problems. Signage is regularly in Spanish and English. English is taught in schools so shyness may be a reason for not talking in English, but an English question may well be understood.
A phrasebook and a translation app on your smartphone will help if you get into any difficulties. In the meantime, here are some words and phrases that you might like to learn.
Tourists heading to Mexico, and specifically Mexico City, may cross the border overland from the USA or Guatemala. The majority however fly into Benito Juarez International Airport. The cheapest means of getting into the middle of the City is by metro from Terminal 1. Terminal 2 arrivals can head to Terminal 1 via the shuttle or light rail link. There are buses into the City from both terminals.
Licensed taxi services are available, and you can get a ticket from a counter within the airport. Alternatively, book a pre-contracted van or Uber. Some arrivals land at Toluca International Airport 30 miles to the southwest of Mexico City. Several budget airlines use it.
Within Mexico City itself, it is unwise to rent a car and drive yourself. The Metro underground system is an extensive network but without English signage so learn the numbers and pictorial icons for your destination. There are electric trolley buses and the RTP Bus System. Private bus franchises are widespread but less reliable. The other alternatives are taxis and Uber. Taxis are relatively cheap but in such a huge city, taxi drivers may not be familiar with everywhere.
Mexico City has a poor reputation for safety, but the media exaggerate the problem. You need to take care as you would in any large city in the Americas. Public transport is generally safe. You shouldn’t walk alone at night in quiet places. Don’t hail a cab in the street unless you really have to but book a taxi or Uber in advance.
Pickpockets are a problem so be on your guard. Don’t take valuables and documents that you don’t need with you; leave them in the safe in your room. Wearing things of value, jewelry, and watches, is not advisable, especially if you are going to crowded places, or are on public transport. In an emergency, ring 911.