1. Consider the weather when you book
You might think that Mexico City is very hot but actually it only peaks at around 80 degrees in it’s hottest summer months. In the winter, it is warm in the day but goes down to around 50 at night. If you want a sunny and very hot vacation, then you might like the summer. If you want some refreshing cool air at night then come in the winter. There are tourists all year-round but at top attractions like Frida Kahlo or the pyramids, you’ll find fewer crowds in the winter.
2. Think about if you want to go during Día de Muertos
Many people want to make sure they visit Mexico City during the “day of the dead” festival. This is a beautiful site to see (I’ve seen it in Merida, not Mexico City). It’s on November 1st and 2nd. But, keep in mind that lodging will get booked up, places might be more expensive, and there will be more crowds at this time. For a little more information on the pros and cons, check out this helpful blog post.
3. Get a SIM card
Just walk into an OXXO (similar to a 7-11) and buy a SIM card there. It’s easy and I think just a few dollars (it’s been a while since I bought mine). You can add credit from your phone. It’s a very simple process and doesn’t require any ID’s and paperwork. Having the internet on your phone is key to use the maps while you wander around. Mexico City is huge!
4. Use Uber and the metro
With your SIM, you can book Ubers and use Metro maps to get around. Uber is very reliable and affordable. It is usually around $3 for a 10-15 minute ride somewhere in the city. If there is traffic at rush hour or you are downtown, you might want to take the metro. It’s a very well-designed metro. When they hosted the Olympics, they built this metro and since people visiting wouldn’t be able to speak Spanish, they used very easy to figure out colors and symbols.
Uber will take you just about anywhere including the airport (no issues with safety there) and to and from the Teotihuacan pyramids about an hour outside of town. When we needed an Uber back to town, there were no issues getting one from the pyramids.
5. Get pesos from the ATM rather than exchanging money
Paying with USD in Mexico will always mean paying more. Some places even have two menus – one in English with USD and one in Spanish with pesos and the USD one is always more. Get pesos from the ATM when you arrive. You’ll be charged a $3 or so fee, but it’s almost always going to be a better deal than exchanging pesos at the airport currency exchange booth. I recommend taking out about 3,000 MXN to start which is $156.
6. Make sure you have travel insurance
Mexico City has very good health care and if you are injured, you can feel in safe hands being treated here. There medical care isn’t as cheap as you might be thinking, though. You absolutely do not want to pay out of pocket here for medical expenses in a hospital. On the other hand, if you need medicine like antibiotics or run out of birth control, you can get this very cheap at a pharmacy without a prescription.
7. Keep pick-pocketing in mind when you choose your purse
I would avoid little backpacks or purses that don’t probably close when traveling in Mexico City. Like any city, there are pickpocketers around (in some areas more than others). While you’re not likely to encounter this in places like Condesa or Roma, you could downtown and in the metro. Just keep an eye on your purse and avoid any of the “no-go” areas. If you want a cute but impenetrable purse, check out this anti-theft purse review.
8. Dress for the weather – Layers are key!
I mentioned that it gets cold in the evenings from around October to March. We’re talking around 50 degrees but in old drafty Airbnbs and with the breeze it feels even colder. Bring a sweater and jacket. Bring boots! If you come in the summer, you still want to bring a light jacket for the evenings. Check out my full Mexico City packing list (coming next week, sorry).
9. Think about your daily budget ahead of time – it’s not that cheap of a city!
I know what you’re thinking – Mexico is cheap! But, this is Mexico City and it’s going to eat away at the money in your pocket. If you want to go to the top recommended restaurants, you’re talking $20 for a main dish. Museums aren’t free and can be around $10 to enter. Drinks are similar to the USA, around $5 for a glass of wine in a restaurant. You’ll be paying for your hotel, too, and if you stay somewhere nice like a top-rated boutique hotel this could be up to $400 bucks. At the same time, you can stay in $20 hostels or a $50 cute Airbnb.
If you had to budget for a day (on a budget), I would put aside $20 for a hostel, $10 for food if you are eating just street food, $10 for Ubers for the day (around 3 Uber rides), $10 for beer, and $20 for activities/entrance fees. So that is around $70 for the day.
If you’re mid-range, you might be getting a $50 Airbnb, getting around 5 Ubers for the day ($15), eating better food ($40) and drinking a bottle of wine ($20), plus doing sightseeing ($20). That puts you at maybe around $145 per day. If you are splitting costs with a friend it can save a lot of money!
If you want to go luxury, you can and there are so many amazing hotels in Mexico City that cost a bundle thanks to the amazing architecture and luxuries! You can eat the best world-ranked restaurants and pay $100 for dinner. You can hire private cars instead of Uber. It’s totally up to you!
10. Book an Airbnb in Roma or Condesa
I’m all about Airbnb. I love staying in people’s apartments. I did a huge search before going and have saved the best top-rated cutest Airbnb’s and have a list of them in this post on where to stay in Mexico City (coming next week). That post also has the top boutique hotels, the best hostels, and the most amazing 5-star hotels. When I travel, lodging is a bit part of the experience for me. It wasn’t when I was young, but these days I like to be more comfortable. The first Airbnb I stayed at was $80 per night (in the photo above). The second I stayed at was $180 per night (and was actually a boutique hotel that was also listed on Airbnb at a lower rate).