18+ Mexico City FAQs: What to Know Before Visiting CDMX

18+ Mexico City FAQs: What to Know Before Visiting CDMX

Mexico City can be an intimidating place to visit, especially for novice travelers. It’s a densely populated city with over 9-million people. If you’ve ever flown into or over the city, you’ve seen the vastness for yourself. If not, it’s definitely a sight to see.

We’re seasoned travelers and even for us, visiting Mexico City for the first time around had a high intimidation factor. But, we’ve since been to the city more times than we can count and often use CDMX as a hub in between travels throughout Mexico.

Don’t let the sheer size of Mexico City prevent you from visiting this treasure trove of food and culture. There’s literally something for everyone in the city. After all, how could there not be? 

One of the best things about CDMX is the fact that once you arrive in a specific area, it’s often more communal than you would expect. We equate most barrios (or neighborhoods) to a “small town” of their own. Find the right place and you’ll have everything you need at your fingertips from shopping to restaurants to greenspaces.

So, without further ado, let’s answer your questions about Mexico City so you can enjoy this cultural hub for yourself!

Is Mexico City Safe?

The short answer is – yes, in most cases, Mexico City is safe. It mostly boils down to a few things; the area you’re in, the habits you keep, and how seasoned of a traveler you are.

While we won’t dwell on this topic too much, we’ll break each of the above down in a little more detail.

  • The Area You’re In – You won’t find many problems with crime in traditional tourist neighborhoods like Condesa, Palanco, Hipodroma, Escondon, etc. However, petty theft can be an issue (like any big city) if you’re not careful.
  • Why You’re There – It’s pretty understandable that if you’re out partying and leaving a bar or nightclub late at night that you’ll be more susceptible to crime than if you’re out getting a coffee mid-afternoon. We’re not saying don’t have fun – just use common sense and you’ll be fine in Mexico City.

The most common crimes in Mexico City tend to be those of “opportunity”, including:

  • Grabbing unattended items
  • Charging a bit too much for taxis in high tourist areas
  • Pick pocketing

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or not, you’ll be safe in Mexico City if you practice common sense. Here are a few tips to ensure you’re at least preventing some of the crimes above:

  • Don’t carry unnecessary items or large amounts of cash
  • Avoid expensive jewelry and clothing that will attract unwanted attention
  • Get more than one quote from taxis BEFORE you get in (or use Uber)
  • Keep money in separate pockets in case of pickpocketing
  • Opt for SafetyWing Travel Insurance for added trip protection

Again, Mexico City is safe for the majority of people that visit. Of course, there are some “seedy” areas that can be found closer to Centro, but even still, these areas have a lot to offer with very little risk.

Now that we’ve gotten the safety issue out of the way, let’s dive into some of the more fun topics regarding your visit to the city.

What is There to Do in Mexico City?

There’s always something going on in Mexico City. From art exhibits to concerts to food tours and beyond, you’ll never get bored. People watching is one of our favorite things to do in Mexico City. There’s an unlimited amount of opportunities to do just that. Opt to sit in one of the many parks and greenspaces or you’d like to grab a seat at a local cafe, people watching is a must!

Remember, the area you’re in will depend greatly on what there is to do in Mexico City. However, Uber’s are cheap (if not quick) and allow you to explore varying areas with ease.

Here are a few of our top picks for full-day excursions:

Don’t forget to check out our list of the Best Things to Do in Mexico City: Free, Cheap, and Pricey.

Where to Stay in Mexico City, Mexico?

Where to stay in Mexico City can vary significantly based on the price you want to pay, what you’re looking to do, and how long you’ll be there. Here’s a list of some of the best neighborhoods to stay when looking into Mexico City.

The most typical hub for those visiting Mexico City include; Palonco, Condesa, Hipodroma, Roma Norte, Centro Historico, Zona Rosa, and surrounding areas.

These barrios (neighborhoods) are a good place to find high-end restaurants, cafes, parks, shopping, and more. We tend to consider these areas great for short-term stays.

But, if you’re looking for more of a long-term place to call home, San Miguel de Chapultepec, Escondon, or Coyoacan could be a better option for you. These barrios have a smaller, more localized vibe with tree-lined streets, less traffic, and walkable markets.

If you’re looking to live it up in the lap of luxury while in Mexico City, check out our guide for the Top 10 5-Star 5 Star Hotels in Mexico City!

How Long Should I Stay in Mexico City?

If you’re breaking up your vacation in Mexico, we recommend at least a third of that time in the city. Why? There is just that much to do. Mexico City also has both international and national airports making it the ideal spot for starting your vacation, ending it, or breaking up your vacation between coasts.

Vacation rentals in Mexico City can be somewhat costly. If you’re looking to save a little bit of money and have additional time, you can check on AirBNB for “monthly” rates which usually come at a significant discount compared to the traditional per-night rates.

Remember, you can’t technically work in Mexico on a tourist visa. If you plan to stay more than a few weeks, here’s a good guide on how to make sure you get 180-days on your tourist visa.

What Food Is Mexico City Known for?

Mexico City is known for literally everything. You can find anything from high-end 5-star restaurants to roadside birria taco stands. There are many options regardless of your budget. We definitely recommend looking for places that are packed with locals to get the best food experience in Mexico City, Mexico.

Stay tuned for our Ultimate Guide on Foods in Mexico City, Mexico!

What are the Airports in Mexico City?

There are two airports in Mexico City, Mexico. The regular airport is Benito Juárez International Airport. You can fly both internationally and nationally. It’s much closer and more conveniently located within the city. When booking flights look for the code AICM.

The newer airport is slightly outside the city. It’s called Felipe Ángeles International Airport with the airport code AIFA. While flights are generally much cheaper through this airport, you may not be saving as much as you think after you get a taxi into town.

Whether you’re flying locally within Mexico or internationally, we recommend using Kiwi to find the best deals on flights.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around in Mexico City?

Unless you’re commuting to work on a regular basis, you will likely only use two types of transportation in Mexico City; taxis and Uber. Of course, there are buses, trams, and collectivos like everywhere else in Mexico that may be able to save you a little bit of money.

Our go-to in Mexico City is Uber when just running errands, meeting friends, or playing tourists for the day. You’ll get up-front prices and know exactly where to tell your driver to go. You can even make “stops” along the way as needed or do “round-trip” rides. Just remember, traffic in Mexico City can be crazy so you may be waiting 5-10 minutes for your Uber to arrive.

What’s the Weather in Mexico City, Mexico?

Weather in Mexico City is actually pretty tame. While there are definitely four unique seasons, none are over-the-top cold or hot. We recommend wearing different layers for day and night because weather can change significantly at the drop of a hat. For example, I always pack a light jacket or sweater in my bag if I know we’ll be out all day – even in the summer months.

The biggest thing you need to plan for is “rainy season” which is from June to September. Rainy season can make it slightly difficult to get around. However, usually rain starts around 4pm every day. If the skies look dark, it’s time to move on!

What Altitude is Mexico City?

Mexico City sits at 2,240 meters (7,350 ft). While high, the altitude isn’t something to worry about if you’re in good general health. Some people may notice a slight pressure on their chest – amost as if something heavy is sitting on it. If that’s you, just give yourself a day or two before any strenuous exercises to let your body catch up.

Other people don’t really notice any change at all. We have never had a problem, even when coming from sea-level locations. But if you do, don’t stress too much. Head to any pharmacy (farmacia) and let them know how you’re feeling – and why. They’ll likely give you some altitude meds and have your take it easy for a few days.

Is The Pollution in Mexico City Bad?

For some, the pollution in Mexico City can be quite annoying at first. But, if you’re used to bigger cities, it may not affect you at all. If you’re concerned, you can always check the Mexico City Air Quality Index (AQI) and Mexico Air Pollution prior to your trip.

The good thing about Mexico City is that there are plenty of green spaces. If you’re bothered by city noise or city air, head to your nearby park for a quick reset.

Can I Drink the Tap Water in Mexico City?

No – Do not drink the tap water in Mexico City or elsewhere in Mexico. Some locals do drink the water but we don’t recommend it unless you want to ruin the second half of your trip with stomach issues.

Essentially anywhere you stay will have what’s called a “garrafon” of water ready for you to consume. In the rare instance that you aren’t provided with drinking water, just head to your local “tienda” (store) and grab a few bottles to last you through your visit.

Can I Brush My Teeth with Water in Mexico City?

Again, no – do not use tap water to brush your teeth in Mexico City. Use potable drinking water to brush your teeth. Not all tap water is “tainted”, but if you’re unlucky, even a few drops can ruin the rest of your trip. Don’t risk it.

What Time Zone is Mexico City?

Mexico City is Central Standard Time. The good thing about Mexico is, once you get used to the new time zone you’re in, you know it won’t change. Mexico no longer has “daylight savings” so the time is, well, the time.

Just remember to always take the time zone into account when flying in or out of Mexico City. This includes connecting flights where you may be several hours in the city – even if it’s just sitting in the airport.

How Do I Make Calls in Mexico City?

Making calls in Mexico City can be difficult if you don’t already have a Mexican phone number. Here are a few things to note:

  • If you’re calling the U.S. or Canada you’ll have to enter +1 (the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) code) before making your call.
  • The country code for Mexico is +52. You will need to enter that if you’re calling from a non-Mexican phone number before making your call.
  • The area code for Mexico City is 55. You’ll need to dial that before the 7-8 digit Mexican phone number you’ve been provided.

To make things much, much easier on yourself – and everyone – we highly recommend signing up for WhatsApp before your trip. Almost everyone in Mexico uses WhatsApp making calls and texts much easier. Just remember, when adding a new Mexican contact to add the +52 country code and the 55 area code for CDMX.

Is Mexico City Expensive?

Mexico City is becoming more and more expensive. It’s a hub for varying expats and tourists alike. You’ll notice a much higher price on things than elsewhere in Mexico. For us, we’ve seen costs rise almost to that of what we’ve paid for in the states.

Many locals are being out-priced of certain neighborhoods in the past few years. That’s not to say you shouldn’t visit the city, but be aware of your social impact. Shop locally when possible and always tip well.

How Much Should You Tip in Mexico City?

How much you tip depends on the service provided. In general, a 10%-15% tip in Mexico is considered adequate. However, if you want to give a little extra without going overboard that’s fine too.

Almost any service in Mexico warrants a tip. That includes room cleaning, service at restaurants, and everyone in between. If they provide a service, you should tip. As of August 2023, the average wage in Mexico was just 535 MXN/Day (approx $630.058 USD/Month) so your tip will definitely go a long way.

Even some doctors in Mexico are service-based. For example, if you’re feeling sick and head to the pharmacy (farmacia) where there’s a doctor who can see you and provide you with a prescription, they’ll generally have a sign that says they work on tips (propina).

How Much Does Mexico City Cost?

We’ve already talked about the rising cost of Mexico City. Depending on the area you’re looking to live in, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,500-3,000 USD per month. That’s an estimated all-inclusive budget for 1-person with average monthly expenses.

Rent will be your highest factor in how much it costs to live in Mexico City. If you’re on a budget, you’re not alone. Many expats and locals alike are turning to renting out rooms to save on monthly expenses.

Don’t forget to check out our blog on how you can improve your overall quality of life by moving abroad!

Did We Answer Your Questions About Mexico City?

You asked, and we answered! We’ve touched on many of the topics that we regularly get. But, if you’d like any of the above topics expanded upon or if we missed an important question you have about Mexico City, feel free to let us know in the comments below.

Trust us, we understand just how intimidating it can be to plan a trip to a city packed with 9-million people. But, we’re so confident that once you’re there, you’ll be glad you did!

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