March 2018 Trip Report: Mexico City (CDMX)

Mexico City! La Cuidad de Mexico (CDMX)! I never thought I'd ever get a chance to visit. Over the past 15 years, I've always heard how crazy dangerous it would be to go to Mexico City and heard multiple stories from friends who heard from other friends/family about kidnappings, muggings, being held at gunpoint, etc. So Mexico City was never on my radar to visit. However over the past few months, I just had an itching to check it out for myself. Timing was fortuitous as I found out a girlfriend of mine was going with another chica, and after talking to a colleague who goes often for business trips (and he had been multiple times in the past year) and had nothing but positive things to say about the city, I invited myself along and was so glad I went.

Like any city in the world, you have to take the news you hear from the media about the dangers of travel with a grain of salt. Do your research, plan safely, use common sense, and read up as much as you can from other travelers/locals/resources. Overall, I felt 100% safe the entire time I was in Mexico City. We were there for just four days and we stayed in the safe/touristy/hipster neighborhoods. Would I visit Mexico City alone as a female traveler? Yes, I would! As long as you plan accordingly! Mexico City was also such an easy and affordable trip from NYC. My roundtrip airline ticket was $375 via Delta (my friend who booked a month earlier than me at the end of Jan. paid $350) and between the three of us, we paid $70 each for three nights at a nice Air BnB. We took Uber everywhere, and no ride TOTAL was over $9, not even to the airport! So if you're looking for a fun, affordable, and cultural trip that's easy to get to from the U.S., I highly recommend Mexico City.

Here are my tips and observations:

Airfare

I almost didn't go because when I initially looked for flights in early Feb., the Delta roundtrip ticket from JFK to CDMX jumped up to $600-700! Then a few weeks later, I don't know what happened but the flight went down to $375 so I immediately jumped on it. I'm pretty sure I booked it on a Tuesday too, which is when i generally see lower fares. It had been $400 the Sunday before and I was going to book it then but I'm glad I waited two days! I actually ended up using my Chase Sapphire Reserve points so I didn't physically shell out any money but I still try to get the best deal I can. The weekend we went was March 9-11 and we arrived in CDMX by 2:15 pm and left CDMC by 2:15 pm the following Monday

Getting Around

Don't bother with taking the subway/metro. Uber is so freaking cheap! And reliable and safe, since everything can be tracked. As I mentioned earlier, no ride cost more than $9 USD, which was how much it was to the airport and the Condesa area of the city which is where we stayed. The drivers may not know much English but we found them all to be very nice. Just be sure to cross check the license plate of a car with your Uber app before getting in so you know you have the right car! Most of our rides cost between $3-5, even during rush hour when it was raining and there was like a 50% "surge" pricing. At the time we went the exchange rate was $1 USD = 18-20 pesos. We also never really waited more than 5-10 minutes for someone to come pick us up. I recommend taking an Uber rather than walk, as the city is pretty sprawling. The only areas that I think are good and safe for walking are La Condesa, Roma, and the Polanco area. These areas are pretty well-to-do, artsy and laid back.

Where to Stay

We stayed at a cute Air BnB in the heart of the  Condesa area of the city. It was a cute two bedroom walk up and I'm sure there are plenty of good ones around. My business colleague also shared with me there are tons of really great Mexico hotels that are pretty affordable and have 4-5 star quality amenities but they're not necessarily advertised on US platforms for hotel bookings. Overall it seems staying in CDMX is pretty great value and you won't go wrong staying in La Condesa, Roma or Polanco. Condesa and Roma are neighboring areas and I think Roma is more happening but I liked both areas. Polanco was more upscale and posh, with your typical American and luxe stores at your fingertips.

What to Do

There is so much to do in Mexico City! We were only there for a few days but it was jam packed. For our trip we did the following:

  • Day 1 Friday - After settling into the Air BnB in the afternoon, we headed out to the Museum of Anthropology, which everyone says is a must-see. We arrived close to 5 pm and stayed a couple of hours and it is very interesting as it showcases the civilization of the country and its rich history. It rained while we were there (the only time it did that weekend) and saw a beautiful rainbow.
 Somewhere over the rainbow at the Museum of Anthropology

Somewhere over the rainbow at the Museum of Anthropology

 Welcome to the jungle!

Welcome to the jungle!

 One of my favorite pictures I've ever taken--I love how this shadow cuts through the colorful trees behind the museum

One of my favorite pictures I've ever taken--I love how this shadow cuts through the colorful trees behind the museum

After the museum, we were pretty hungry so we headed over to the Polanco area to eat at Entre Mar. Reservations can be made via e-mail and we loved eating here. We also ate at their sister restaurant, Contramar, a couple of days later which is the original location and much harder to get rsvps for! But Contramar is closer to Roma/Condesa. Definitely get the "Huevos Rotos" which is basically scrambled eggs over baked fries and laced with serrano jamon. OMG I love their jamon. Delicious!!! We got it at Contramar too. All their fish entrees were so good. Unfortunately I had an incident with my phone and lost a lot of pictures. The ones on this blog are the ones I could easily salvage. :( Otherwise I would definitely post all the amazing food we had!

  • Day 2 Saturday: My favorite day of the trip! We took a private half day tour of Teotihuacan, which was amazing. I didn't know too much about it before we went but I'm so glad we did this. For three people, we paid $150 USD total which included the driver ($90) and the local guide ($60). The local guide is a gov't employee and he met us there at the site. My friend's friend recommended it to us but I'm sure most are similarly priced. We started the day at 7:30 am (the driver was supposed to pick us up at 7 am but he was late) and we left by 12/12:30 pm. It was just enough time and DEFINITELY start early because 1) traffic in Mexico City is crazy jammed 2) there is no shade here so you do NOT want to be walking out here at the height of the sun/warmth 3) it gets more crowded later in the day--when we left there was a jam packed lined of cars trying to get into the park.

If you have ever been to the Mayan Ruins such as Chichen Itza, this place is 1,000,000x more interesting and better. This place is huge, full of rich culture, and it is ANCIENT. I'm still in awe of everything I learned about this place. Just go, it's so worth it! It wasn't too hot when we went in early March (it was a bit chilly in the morning) but it definitely got hotter throughout the day, especially when you're climbing up the steps of these pyramids.

 The Climb--it takes about 15-20 min. to get to the top and there is a rope you can use as a bannister. Your thighs will definitely be burning. You're also at a higher altitude too so take your time for breathing/rest!

The Climb--it takes about 15-20 min. to get to the top and there is a rope you can use as a bannister. Your thighs will definitely be burning. You're also at a higher altitude too so take your time for breathing/rest!

Below is the Pyramid of the Sun. This place is so old, like B.C. time old. The tour guide said it has survived intact because everything was built at a right angle so in the event of a quake it won't fall. The symmetry and design of this place is incredible given the time period it was completed in. In addition, this place took decades to build and lifespans at the time weren't that long so whoever dreamed it up never even saw its completion.

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 Pyramid of the Sun

Pyramid of the Sun

The drive from Mexico City to Teotihuacan was about 90 min. I'm really glad we started the day early as it's very popular and as the day wore on it got more crowded. There are clean bathrooms at the entrances and exits; definitely been sunglasses/hat/sunblock!

 View of Pyramid of the Moon from the ledge of the Pyramid of the Sun

View of Pyramid of the Moon from the ledge of the Pyramid of the Sun

Below is the walk up to the Pyramid of the Moon. This was pretty amazing because it looks like a flat walk up to this area. And notice the mountain looming behind it in the back?

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Once you actually reach the Pyramid of the Moon the mountain disappears behind it! You've been walking on an incline the whole time but never feel it/notice it. The way they knew how to play with perspective is pretty incredible. In addition, one of the most popular time of the year to visit is spring solstice. Apparently at high noon, if you're standing at the top of this place, your shadow will disappear due to the alignment of these structures (ok so all this is what the tour guide told us and I didn't fact-check any of it!).

 Pyramid of the Moon

Pyramid of the Moon

My favorite part of the day was sitting at the ledge of the Pyramid of the Moon and taking in the ancient city.

 Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan

After we finished with the walking tour, we took a $3 USD taxi ride back to the other end of the area where our driver parked. We rode in the most beat up car ever but got to get some fresh mango off the street fruit stands outside along the way.

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After a long, active morning, we balanced that out with a long, leisurely luxe lunch at Pujol, rated one of the world's best restaurants. RSVPs sell out months in advance so get any seat you can! We sat at the bar and did the taco omakase but wish we did a la carte and got to try other things as well. If you're a foodie this was a lovely experience. The restaurant is beautifully designed and after you finish your main lunch they escort you to their gorgeous garden for dessert. We were there from 1:30-5 pm! Which we didn't expect at all but it was a great way to enjoy the afternoon after a physical morning.

 Go for a gourmet experience but prepare to stay for 4 hours! Our lunch included drinks and I think we paid around $120 USD for everything (food, service, etc.) which is cheaper than anywhere else in the world. The owner owns other places like Cosme in NYC where it is much more expensive to eat!

Go for a gourmet experience but prepare to stay for 4 hours! Our lunch included drinks and I think we paid around $120 USD for everything (food, service, etc.) which is cheaper than anywhere else in the world. The owner owns other places like Cosme in NYC where it is much more expensive to eat!

At night we went to a mezcal bar, La Clandestina. So many cute small bars in the Condesa/Roma area.

  • Day 3 Sunday: Another cute area of the city is where Frida Kahlo's house is, Coyoacan. This place is teeming with locals and is another great area to walk around in. If you want to visit the Frida Kahlo Museum, definitely book tix in advance! We made the mistake of thinking we could show up and get them. You can, but unless you get there at like 8 or 9 am (it opens at 10 am on Sundays) you're probably out of luck. If you get them in person, they only allow 30 people in at a time or something like that every half hour. By the time we arrived at 10 am, there was about 100 people ahead of us. In addition, there is a separate line for people who bought tix online and online tix do sell out too (you have to book for a specific time slot). Anyway, so we didn't get to go in at all but now I have a reason to go back!

Instead, we headed back to the Roma area and walked around. We checked out Mercado Roma (a food hall) and walked along the peaceful but bustling streets before heading to Contramar for lunch, where we had an amazing grilled whole fish. Then we headed to the Historic Center of Mexico City to see some sights. It is super crowded/touristy there (think the Times Square of CDMX) and it reminded me a lot too of the broad plazas/pedestrian only walking shopping streets of Europe. This area was interesting to see but I would have preferred to spend more time in Condesa/Roma.

At night we went to dinner at Gardela Steakhouse in Roma and it was great. What I love about Mexico City is that there is so much good food to try and we found it on a whim. We also went to Limantour, which is ranked as one of the world's best bars and definitely recommend checking it out if you like your cocktails. It also happened to be within two blocks of the restaurant, which made it easy :)

  • Day 4 Monday: We grabbed breakfast at Panderia Rosetta, which is a super popular bakery in Roma. Everything we tried was so good! I also bought some home made granola to bring back to the U.S. I loved their ham and cheese croissants. Anytime I could get queso I would! The one thing I really wish I got to try but forgot/didn't have time was Mexican corn (elotes). Argh! I love grilled Mexican street corn but we were eating/drinking a lot and just didn't have time to squeeze that in too. But next time!

Is Mexico City worth visiting?

YES!!!!! It's a beautiful, culturally rich city and we found the people we came across to be friendly and welcoming. The food and drink scene is spectacular, just know about the areas you plan to stay/visit, and it's so affordable/easy to get to. I would definitely go back if the opportunity presented itself!