I’ve lost count on the number of times I’ve been to Mexico City. I think it’s 7. I’ve said it before, it’s a city that I both love and hate. If you walk in the historic center of Mexico City you’ll fall in love. There’s lots to see that’s very impressive and it has a charm that reminds you of many European cities. It’s not just the historic center, there are lots of really nice neighborhoods like Condesa and Roma Norte. I’ll be working on a Guide to Mexico City in the near future featuring some of our favorite highlights/things to do in the city.
But for now I just wanted to touch on a few essential tips that will help you out when arriving in Mexico City. Some I just learned this time around.
SIM card. Need a SIM card when you arrive? I can’t travel without a SIM card. You can buy your SIM card on the 2nd floor of the airport (the floor above arrivals). Walk past long line of restaurants (you’ll see Subway among them). You’ll get to a corridor just after the restaurant. Continue through – you’ll see Telcel on the corner. Get your SIM there. I bought the 2G package that lasts 26 days and it cost me 175 pesos (8.50 US or 10.70 CAD). They installed it for me and I had internet right away.
Taxi downtown. Book your taxi at the small counters when you leave the arrivals gate. You can’t miss it because you’ll see these women behind the counters trying to out yell each other shouting out “Taxi”. A taxi downtown should cost 250 pesos (about $12 USD, $15 CAD) and take about 20 minutes.
Looking for a good value Hotel in Mexico City?
Mexico City hotels can be quite expensive. We’ve found a few inexpensive places on our travels though. This time we stayed at the Hotel Castropol. It is excellent and great value ($43 CAD on booking.com, that’s $34 US). Large clean rooms, decent wifi, great shower, it has a restaurant. But the best is that it’s a 10 minute walk to the Zocalo (the main square). So it’s right in the center of things. Since I was visiting with my mom I didn’t want to pay big bucks for the 2 rooms we needed.
Another recommendation I have is Hotel Rioja. It’s a bit more basic but is even closer to the Zocalo (5 minutes) and is located on beautiful Avenue de 5 de Mayo. The starting rate for a single there is 300 pesos (about $15 USD or $18 CAD).
Looking for something just a little more upmarket? The Hotel Catedral (right next to the Cathedral) is great and rooms start at about $60 US.
Lots of Free stuff. It’s pretty amazing that so many things in Mexico City are free for tourists. The Cathedral (the Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest cathedral in the Americas) is free. Next door, you can enter the Palacio National. It is the seat of government but a part of the huge building includes a museum dedicated to the Aztecs as well as different cultures around the world. When we were there they also had a Day of the Dead exhibit in the central square of the museum. Again free. We passed by the Post office Museum (the building is incredible) and that also is free. Finally, they had an Indigenous festival in the Zocalo where tribes from around Mexico came to sell goods, crafts and local food. Entry was free. We spent hours there trying different foods and drink, all of which were very cheap. Mexico is great!
The rooftop bar you should visit
We stumbled upon the Terraza Cathedral rooftop bar. The views are fantastic. It’s part of a hostel so prices are good, unlike many other rooftop bars around. We sat up there for a couple of hours watching the sun setting over the Cathedral and it was a highlight of our 1 ½ days in Mexico City.
Security and Covid. One thing you’ll always see in the Historic center of Mexico City is a huge police presence. HUGE. It might have been so big this time around because of the Indigenous festival (besides the goods, crafts and food there were also some protests) but every other time I’ve been to Mexico City I’ve seen the same huge police presence.
There was lots of attention to Covid. Most locals walked around with masks on and whenever you entered a museum or restaurant you would have someone squirting gel on your hands. In Museums they went a step further and would have a body temperature reader.
A couple of days in Mexico City is usually enough for me. By then I’m ready to move on to some of the beautiful towns in the vicinity (as we are going on this trip). But it is a fascinating and, in parts, beautiful city that has to be explored.
Thanks for Reading!
Related: The Magical town of Tepoztlan (it’s just a little over an hour away from Mexico City)