I just got back from a fantastic trip visiting beautiful Mexico! I went to Mexico City with my two youngest sons to show them some sites and visit family down there. As it happens, before we left, I purchased an annual plan for the whole family which will cover us, not only abroad, but also when we are 100 miles away from home. This was important to me because our current domestic insurance, while good, does not offer international travel medical insurance coverage for US citizens travelling to Mexico very well. AND, since we travel out of state quite often (several times per month), I always had this bit of a worry in the back of my mind.
Copyright by A Christina Longbrake
It was a very nice time of year for travelers visiting Mexico. We went in mid April when they are currently in their 'dry' season, so although we went prepared with raincoats, we never unpacked them. Here are a few things we did, which I would highly recommend.
We took the "Turibus" which is a double decker tourist bus you can catch in many parts of the city which takes you on a round trip of an area with guided audio included (you can pick up a headset in several languages if needed; the voice you can hear on the bus is in Spanish). We took the "Downtown" route which circles through some of the main avenues of the city and includes stops at the Zocalo, which is the main plaza of Mexico City home to several government buildings, the Cathedral, and the excavated Templo Mayor (a temple that was uncovered when some construction was started near the Cathedral). Unfortunately, it was a Monday and all museums are closed on Monday (file that away to plan your stay), so all we could do was walk around the outside of the excavation. You can take any of the routes you want and get on and off as many times as you like.S There were routes to get to the Basilica and other places, but we kept it simple.
Museum of Fine Arts
Angel of Independence on Reforma Avenue
Temple of the Moon, Teotihuacan
Temple of the Sun, Teotihuacan
Before I left, besides checking into US travel health insurance for Mexico and what my travel credit card would do for me, I downloaded the Uber app on my phone and entered the credit card I wanted to use for that as well as the Airbnb app. I had already used Airbnb while in Europe last summer and found (unfortunately AFTER I was on my trip) that it was a nice way to house 6 people in the same place but you DID need to have the app ready to use on your phone. Uber I had not used before and I must say that I found it very convenient. My cousins use it all the time in the city. I know there is a lot of controversy around it, but here's what I liked about it: (1) the cars are fairly new and clean (some taxis I have taken in Mexico City... well, let's just say they've seen better days), (2) there is no money that exchanges hands since everything, even a tip, is put on the app, and, for security, (3) you have the name of the driver, a picture of him or her, and the license plate, make and model of the car, so you can make sure you have the right ride. I thought it was tremendously convenient and safe, although we were never out very late at night. It gave me the opportunity to go places quickly and easily. I have taken he subway and we did so again, but this was in some ways much simpler. I also found that the rates were a little better than regular taxis.
So, used Uber to go to the Market of Arts and Crafts (Mercado de Artesanias) where I found some really interesting and wonderful crafts. These also are always changing and evolving, so it's never dull to go back to the same vendors. We took the subway to see Chapultepec Castle which was built in 1785 on a hill in the middle of Chapultepec forest (now a park) and was the home of Emperor Maximilian of France and his wife Carlota from 1864 to 1867 when he was deposed. It still has much of the furnishings from when they lived there. It also offers wonderful views of Reforma Avenue (which Maximilian had built) which goes into the center of the city.
So, my recommendations for you should you venture to the lovely and historic Mexico City:
- Try Uber if you have a smartphone, but do take all security precautions.
- CAREFUL of your wallet or purse. Particularly in crowded places such as: the metro or subway, the Basilica, an open air market, or any place else where there are many people in the area. Pickpockets often work with partners with one trying to direct your attention to them while the other takes your wallet or cell phone. Those are the items that are most often taken, so be aware of that. Don't put your wallet in your back pocket; a front pocket would be better and if you have a purse, hold it close to your body, especially if it is open at the top; a zippered opening would be better. I recommend leaving passports and nice jewelry in a hotel safe while you are out.
- Dress modestly and conservatively. While Mexico has moved into a more modern dress code than in the past which includes shorts, they are still relatively conservative and Mexican men, in particular, are going to be openly appraising of any curves you put on display. If you'd rather not draw attention to yourself, keep buttoned up and covered.
- Eat up! Mexico has some of the best food on the planet. There are countless open air cafes and wonderful bakeries abound. However, stay away from street cart food and raw foods unless you purchase them at market and wash it yourself. My family and I had a touch of Montezuma's revenge upon our return. Remember not to drink water out of the tap or ask for ice in your drink. The hot chocolate, however, is to die for... When in doubt, order the day's special. That will be fresh and wonderful! I highly recommend the restaurant "El Cardenal" with several locations in Mexico City and "Las Delicias" which besides offering wonderful traditional Mexican food, has a show of live music and dancing in the evenings.
Photos Copyright by A Christina Longbrake
As ever, we wish you safe and happy travels,