Country: Mexico
Currency: Peso (MXN)
Peak Season: April, July-September
Shoulder Season: May-June
Median Temperature: 16.00 C / 60.8 F
Main Languages: Spanish, English
Primary Modes of Transportation: Metro, bus, pesero, taxi
Recommended Duration of Stay: 4 days
Recommended Pocket Money: $100.00/day
Tourist Passes: Mexico Tourist Card
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Mexico City is Latin America’s pride and glory. Being the largest city in Mexico and a vacation hotspot for both American and European tourists, the country has attracted close to 25 million people annually, largely due to influx of tourists to Mexico City. The city has undergone dramatic economic and industrial progression since the 1950’s, which spurred the high-rise buildings, cultural landmarks, landscaped greeneries, and hubs of first-class hotels and restaurants we see today. The city—known for its contrasting glamour against its neighboring citie— has often the depicted as the place where the heroes and heroines in telenovelas find success in life. And success it is. Mexico City, through the decades—despite political and social tensions— has never shown a sign of slowing down; holding its own by regulating the influx of rural immigrants, putting a stop to pollution, and restructuring the police authorities to appease more and more investors to grace the city.

What marvels most people is how Mexico City manages to preserve and make accessible the remnants of its Aztec culture, whose imprints trace back to the early 14th century when Mexico was still Tenochtitlan, resting on the basin of Lake Texcoco. The Aztec civilization—headed by the then-ruler Moctezuma II—would soon meet its demise during the Spanish conquest. Tensions grew as the two factions grew with impatience over who would take absolute control of the city. In 1521—the same year the Philippines was discovered by Ferdinand Magellan, another Spanish conquistador—Mexico City began to succumb to Spanish colonization, which marked an era of Catholic indoctrination, Spanish politics, and more importantly, infrastructure and commerce. By the 16th century, Mexico City mobilized for international trade and growth, rife with political tensions in the centuries to come. From a mere tribe, the city is now inhabited by nearly nine million people.

Packing List

  • ATM card/credit card, as well as smaller denominations for taxis (you’ll be riding them a lot); many American-branded clothes, electronics and food are sold for cheap here, so bring extra storage
  • Some decent, upbeat clothes—shorts and plain t-shirts won’t cut it here because Mexicans dress fancier than Americans; bring layers, a trench coat and an umbrella for changeable weather
  • A guidebook, pocket map, GPS device or anything to keep you on track of where you are in this large, densely populated city; a sizeable backpack to lug all your clothes and gear is recommended
  • Essential medication and toiletries, as well as loperamide to counteract the effects of notoriously spicy Mexican cuisine; first aid kits will help, especially during ancestral hikes
  • A decent camera with lots of battery and film/memory; the cultural sceneries are a bit far off from the business district, so bring gadgets/books to keep you preoccupied

Things to Do

  • Cruising along the tranquil canals of Xochimilco aboard trajineras, boats with floral arches; along the lake, you will also witness chinampas or “floating gardens,” artificial land where crop is grown
  • Appreciating various eras of Mexican art at the Museo Dolores Olmedo; art collections consist mostly of the Rivera couple’s work, along with pre-Hispanic antiquities and garden fauna
  • Visiting the Chapultepec Castle which, at present, is the seat of the National Museum of History; the castle was the residence of Maximilian I, as well as a pivotal location in the Mexican-American War
  • Tiring your feet at the Zocalo, the city’s main plaza and ceremonial square; with the a capacity of over 100,000 people, it is the favored venue for mass protests and religious festivals
  • Getting lost at Chapultepec Park, Latin America’s largest park at 686 acres and one of the most visited attractions due to its plush flora and diverse fauna, and not mention fresh water lakes

DON'T

  • Even contemplate or attempt to smuggle illegal drugs; the country already has a myriad drug-related deaths since President Felipe Calderon ordered an all-out assault on drug dealers
  • Cause any ruckus inside establishments; Mexicans (authorities included) have a knack for scaring the pants off tourists who go violate laws, especially men—the usual sorry doesn’t work here
  • Ride on libre (or privately-operated) taxis if you are worried about safety; fare is low for regular taxis, but is safer (and time-consuming), since you have to phone them in advance before dispatch
  • Compete with Mexicans in a tequila-drinking contest—they have a naturally high alcohol tolerance, particularly in hard drinks; your life may also be put to danger if you completely pass out
  • Ever try to consort (or sleep) with a Mexican woman; the “family” concept is strong in Mexico, and it may cost you dearly if you get caught by her family—they will stop at nothing to find you