A few weeks ago I wrote a post about my initial Mexico City observations (you can read it here), but each day David and I learn and experience new things, so I want to make sure I'm updating the list for anyone else planning on moving, or visiting this great city. So here you have it.
The Ultimate List of Things You Should Know About Mexico City
1. Public trash cans pretty much don't exist. This is only a minor inconvenience, but something I noticed right away. The one exception I've seen to this so far is in Bosque de Chapultepec, and Colonia Polanco.
2. Dogs aren't leashed, however, they all seem well trained (so far). We are not pet people, but have been impressed with how the dogs follow their owners obediently.
3. I am so glad we never have to drive here! If you think NYC, or LA traffic is bad, then come for a visit. You will feel better after seeing the insane car chaos here. Not only are there just way too many cars, but drivers appear to treat using their turn signals as a waste of time. Also, lanes are just a guideline, who knew?
4. Oranges. One of the many things I was was excited about was the potential for delicious fruit in CDMX, and so far it's lived up to my expectations - particularly the oranges. They are levels above anything I have ever eaten back home, but they also have 100% more seeds.
5. Lunch really isn't until at least 2:00. Prior to moving, I read this helpful article on Mexican eating customs, but was unsure how much reality would live up to this example. Well, I'm here to tell you that it does. So I guess our American stomachs are going to need some re-training. Stay tuned.
6. I love not having A/C. Yes, I know I am in a minority with this opinion, but I love opening up the windows in our Airbnb instead of turning on an AC unit. I may change my mind on this point once we hit the middle of summer, but right now, I'm fully enjoying the outside air, even though it comes with hearing everything that goes on in the building.
7. Everything just takes a little longer. It recently took me 30 minutes to get my check at a cafe, and not because of poor service. The culture is just a little more laid back here, which is usually a great thing, but if you are coming for a visit and are on a tight timeline, consider adding extra time for each activity.
8. Uber/Beat can only give you an estimated arrival time within a 30 minute window because traffic is that bad (see #3). This also works in reverse when you order an Uber. The app may say the driver is 10 minutes away, but then they arrive two minutes later. The lesson here is just be ready to either hop in your ride right away, or wait a bit.
9. Download Beat before you arrive. This is the latest competitor to Uber in the city, and often has lower prices.
10. Altitude and dry air. Mexico City is higher in altitude than Denver, CO, and also happens to have a very dry climate. Both David and I have been lucky in that we haven't experienced major issues with the altitude, but the inside of my nose, skin, and hair, are still adjusting to the lack of humidity. Whether you are visiting, or moving here, come prepared with lotion, chapstick, etc.
11. Buying tickets to shows or concerts is a pain. This is because Ticketmaster has some sort of deal/monopoly in Mexico with Citibanamex, which only allows those credit card holders to purchase tickets online. Otherwise, you have to purchase tickets in person at the venue, or at one of the Ticketmaster locations cross the city. Many of the Mixup Music stores have Ticketmaster associated kiosks in the back, which do take non-Citibanamex cards. However, I still recommend coming with cash as well, just in case.
12. There are convenience stores everywhere. Usually at least two on each block (Oxxo, Circle K, 7-11, etc).
13. There ISN'T air conditioning on Metro or Metrobús. I take public transportation multiple times a day. Even with the ridiculous crowds during rush hour, it's still the cheapest, and most efficient way to travel around the city. However, it's hot. Be prepared to get sweaty, and comfortable with your neighbors.
14. You really can't drink tap water. Lots of people have already written on this topic, so I'm just going to point you here to learn more, but it's especially noticeable as a tourist. Every time you need water you will need to stop into a convenience store. If you are lucky, your hotel or a cafe will have filtered water to refill with.
15. Crosswalk signals may or may not exist so be careful crossing the street. We've found that the largest intersections have them, but even a small intersection in a large city cab be a little like Frogger. The best thing to do is pay attention to the traffic signals, and follow those around you.
16. Buenas noches (good night) isn't really a thing. It's actually customary to continue saying buenas tardes (good afternoon) well into the evening.
17. Basic manners still reign here. Passing a stranger on the street on your way to work? Look up and say buenos dias. In a crowded elevator? Make sure to let women, children, and seniors off first. Wondering if you should hold the door open for someone way behind you? The answer is absolutely yes.
18. Don't wear shoes you care about, especially white ones. This is because Mexico City streets are just a little dustier than you may be used to, and the drier air ensures that dust will stick to your shoes. If you are here for a visit, most shoes can easily be thrown in the wash when you return home, but if you plan on living here my tip is just don't spend money on expensive shoes in the first place.
19. But if you do need to wear nice shoes, no worries, there are shoe shiners on every corner, so for a nominal fee they will make your leather pumps look brand new.
20. It's warmer than your weather app tells you. The sun is certainly warmer here than in Washington, DC, so you not only need to be prepared with warmer weather clothes, but you also need to apply sunscreen EVERY DAY.
21. There are women/children/seniors sections on Metro and Metrobus. This is something I take advantage of often when I'm riding public transit alone, and not because I feel unsafe in the other cars, but rather because these sections tend to be a little less crowded (but not always). Please note though, that these sections only exist on the official CDMX Metro and Metrobus systems. There are many other "unofficial" buses that travel throughout the city.
22. Metrobús buses stop at every stop! This means you do not have to remember to push a button or pull a wire to signal you need to get off, but do remember to make your way to the exit door early or else you may struggle getting off before the doors close.
23. Always have small change with you. Whether it's 6 pesos for a public restroom, 3 pesos for tipping the grocery bagger at Superama, or 7 pesos to ride one of the unofficial buses, it's important to have coins with you at all times.
24. Account for a bathroom budget. This goes for people living here, or just visiting. There is no such thing as a free public restroom in CDMX, and even the ones that only cost 5-6 pesos seem like they don't exist when you really need one, so be prepared to step into the closest cafe. While some will let you use the restroom without purchasing anything, I always feel like it's the nicest thing to do to purchase something small. RESTROOM TIP: the only free ones can be found in larger malls.
25. Pay for your taco AFTER you eat it. The first few times we stopped for street food, we made the mistake of trying to pay for our order up front. For a number of reasons, in Mexico, it's customary to eat first and pay later. 1) This is generally a more relaxed culture, and vendors assume their customers will be honest and pay before they go, and 2) What if you end of wanting more food?
26. Some police and even some private security carry large guns. We expected to see armed cops around town, but what we did not expect are the private security guards so heavily protecting seemingly small establishments like the corner convenience store. There is nothing to be alarmed about though as long as you are staying in safe areas of the city (most of the city).
27. Two words...stick brooms (just like a witch's broom). CDMX does a decent job of hiring a large staff of city street cleaners and trash collectors, but David and I always give each other quizzical looks when we pass by a group of street cleaners creating clouds of dust in an already dusty city. I actually believe that the collection of tree branches used by the employees does a better job of sweeping up trash than a standard broom, but immediately walk to the other side of the street if you see one, unless you want to walk through a small dust storm.
Walking enthusiast, and kitchen experimenter currently living out my dream in Mexico City, Mexico.
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