You remember I said in June I will come back to Mexico. Well, it happened sooner than I initially thought, as part of my “lost in Americas” adventure I found the best and cheapest tickets landing in Mexico City, so my trip started there, with a full 2 weeks in the capital.
I decided to rent an apartment via Airbnb, mainly because I needed quietness and good wifi for work, but unfortunately I could not find a cheap one in Condesa, so ended up renting this one , on avenida Juarez, right In front of Alameda Central, for 450 $ for 2 weeks, kinda pricy but the apartment and the location were amazing : brand new apartment, with a gym and washing/dryers, terrace, 24h security, walking distance from most of the sights, and surrounded by dozens of Uber cars at any point of the day/night. Let’s just say it felt better than at home (as my dream house must have a nice terrace).
Staying in Mexico City for 2 weeks really gave me a glimpse into how it would be to live there for a longer period, as a local, needing to go grocery shopping, using the public transport, celebrating the national holidays, and last but not least getting lost in the city streets, sometimes acting like a tourist, but most of the time just as an expat living the life in Mexico City 🙂
I will try to focus more on how is it to live there, rather than what you can visit, as you can easily get that from any guide or website. So, first things first, I needed Internet for work, and unfortunately the one in the apartment didn’t work in the first days. I initially tried to go to cafés and restaurants during the day, but Mexicans have a way of exaggerating with loud music, so you can imagine how my conferences went, or how my food was dancing in my fork 🙂 ). Then I tried buying a sim card with internet from Telcel, and use that for work. This didn’t go well either for 2 reasons : first it gets really expensive, you would buy the sim with 160 pesos, with credit included, then you would recharge it to buy internet ( 3GB 399 pesos Alto30, there are multiple types of subscriptions) and you can imagine I was using 3Gb in 48 hours maximum ; secondly because the sim barely worked in the center during the day, more exactly it worked perfectly between 10PM and 6-7AM , after that you could barely open a page after 5 minutes. So.. First week was not that good in terms of work, mainly because I had to work during the night instead of going out and feeling more the night life of the city. But if you only need the data for Facebook, WhatsApp, maps and google, you should be fine. The SIM card can be bought from any mini market, and recharged either there or online here, if you are smart enough to do it while you still have some internet( not like someone I won’t name 🙂 ).
In terms of washing clothes, if you do not have a washer at your hotel, or apartment, there are lots of Laundry places, with prices varying from 10-15 pesos per kg. I was lucky to have a laundry in our building, but I paid more, 70 pesos for washing and drying. Yet it was on my floor, so pretty easy.
Now, about food, the most important part of the experience of course. Since I had a neat apartment with a new kitchen, I’ve eaten all breakfast and lunches in the apartment, sometimes even cooking for dinner. The only problem with staying in the center is that there are no supermarkets or markets really near, only mini markets which have only the basic. I found one 2km away, and took a taxi back. Food is pretty cheap in Mexico City, for 2 weeks I only went shopping once and paid 650 pesos, buying cheese, meat, pasta, bread, cereals, eggs, milk, water, so a lot of basic food, but which covered the entire period. Most of the evenings I went out to eat, and to be honest, as a foreigner, almost all places had good food, but the street food was especially tasty (antojitos). Needless to say I gained at least 2 kilos during that time, haha. Mexico City is also the place where I’ve discovered the most tasteful cooking oil in the world (until now), not sure how healthy it is: Sabro Sano, but my salads will never taste the same after that, so if you guys know where to buy that in Europe, please save me 🙂 Also, did I mention that I love love love avocado and that’s basically what I’ve eaten non stop? 🙂
Moving around in Mexico City is pretty hectic, especially during rush hours, when traffic gets really unbearable, that you would rather walk. I’ve mostly used Uber during evenings, very safe and pretty cheap, with cars available all the time. During the day I either used the bus or metro network, or just walked ( as a tourist you can easily enjoy a couple of hours of walking with all what’s happening around, the different neighborhoods , architecture and parks). If you know how to ride a bike (not like others I won’t name, ashamed), you can easily rent bikes and use them all around the city.
From what I’ve experienced, all the night life happens in Condesa and Zona Rosa, filled with nice restaurants, bars and clubs, so that’s where I’ve spent most of my evenings, and that’s where all my local friends took me to, so it must be the best area. All I can say is that Mexicans are a very friendly nation, so even going alone in a place you won’t sit alone long, they are open and communicative, so you can learn a lot about their lifestyles and current events while enjoying a tequila, a mezcal ( that is strong!) or michelada ( not my type as its made with beer).
I’ve also had the honor/horror to be in Mexico City exactly during the festivities for Dia de Muertos (almost same time as Halloween, and also filled with costumes and parties), and that was crazy! For an entire weekend the streets were filled with people costumed, with crazy colorful sweets and drinks, and music. Knowledgeable me, I initially thought they were revolting/striking for something, but figured it out soon and joined the craziness of the streets and bars. 🙂
Another nice thing I’ve noticed: during some weekends, the main streets near Alameda Central are closed for traffic, and everyone goes out with their skates, bikes, running, or just walking around with their entire families, including cats and dogs ( well, mostly dogs). Running seems a pretty popular hobby in general, you can find lots of people doing it early morning and late evenings. I’ve also done it a couple of time, even during the night, and I haven’t felt unsafe for a second ( maybe it depends on neighborhoods, like any other capital, but Mexico city seemed pretty safe to me in the areas I’ve been to).
In terms of sightseeing, there are a couple of things that were really worth it: Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe, even If you are not a religious person (I am not), the place felt special and unique; it’s actually a complex or churches and parks, where you can easily spend a couple of hours. Secondly, was Frida Kahlo Museum and the house where she lived, which I loved mostly because of the story of Frida’s life and also because of the neighborhood it is in: Coyoacán, a surprising place, like a different city within Mexico City. Third, it was the Chapultepec Castle and Park, which was just an amazing almost full day experience, because it was really nice outside, and we spent half a day in the gardens, and viewing the city from above.
If you have another day to spare, taking a one day trip to Zona Arqueologica Teotihuacan, where you can actually climb one of the pyramids, and where you really need a guide, otherwise you’ll get lost and understand nothing of the place 🙂
But the thing that really got stuck In my memory is the vibe and the way shopping streets are organized in Mexico DF, close to where my apartment was and Madero street: there are streets dedicated to each type of shops (from electronics, clothes, purses and shoes, jewelry, wedding dresses, cakes etc.), and even if you don’t plan to buy anything, you NEED to walk around! Going to fresh food markets is also another experience not to be missed!
And… that’s about it! Except the traffic, let’s just say I wouldn’t mind living in Mexico City for a while, it has everything you would need: good weather (even if it rains), nice people, great places to waste your free time, and amazing food.
Looking forward to visit you again!