Dangers & Annoyances
While crime rates remain significant in the capital, a few precautions greatly reduce any dangers and first-time visitors are often surprised at how safe it feels. Most of the narco-related violence that makes the news abroad happens in the northern and Pacific states, far from Mexico City.
Although not as prevalent as in the 1990s, taxi assaults still occur. Many victims have hailed a cab on the street and been robbed by armed accomplices of the driver. Taxis parked in front of nightclubs or restaurants should be avoided unless authorized by the management. Rather than hailing cabs, find a sitio (taxi stand) or request a radio taxi or Uber.
The danger posed by an earthquake is low, but they do occur. On September 19, 2017, a major earthquake rocked Mexico City, destroying and damaging buildings and displacing hundreds of people. While there were hundreds of deaths, it was far less devastating than the 1985 earthquake. It reflects, in part, the great improvements that have been to the city's buildings and their ability to resist seismic activity.
The alerta sísmica (public earthquake siren) can gives seconds of warning for you to evacuate a building and is now also connected to the official government app 911 CDMX.
Although it is difficult to predict an earthquake, the latest travel advice can be found on websites such as Smart Traveller (www.smartraveller.gov.au) and the US Department of State (http://travel.state.gov).
Robberies happen most often in areas frequented by foreigners, including Plaza Garibaldi, the Zona Rosa and La Condesa late on weekend nights. Be on your guard at the airport and bus stations. Crowded metro cars and buses are favorite haunts of pickpockets, so keep a close eye on your wallet and avoid carrying ATM cards or large amounts of cash. In case of robbery, don’t resist – hand over your valuables rather than risk injury or death.
Statistically, traffic takes more lives in the capital than street crime. Always look both ways when crossing streets, as some one-way streets have bus lanes running counter to the traffic flow, and traffic on some divided streets runs in just one direction. Never assume that a green light means it’s safe to cross, as cars may turn into your path – cross with other pedestrians.
Agencia del Ministerio Público Report crime and get legal assistance. Has English-speaking staff.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Gay & Lesbian Travelers
Since Mexico City approved a same-sex marriage law (with the nation following suit), the capital has been seen as a bastion of tolerance in an otherwise conservative country. The city's mayor, Miguel Ángel Mancera, even declared to the world that 'Mexico City is an LGBTTTI friendly city.'
The longtime heart of gay life is the Zona Rosa – in particular Calle Amberes – yet many night owls prefer the downtown 'alternative' scene along República de Cuba. GayCities (http://mexicocity.gaycities.com) has useful information on gay-friendly hotels, bars and clubs. The Marcha del Orgullo Gay (Gay Pride) takes place one Saturday each June and sashays along Reforma from the Ángel to the Zócalo.
The Cliníca Condesa is a flagship health center specializing in sexual health, especially (but not only) LGBT issues, with rapid HIV and STI tests, treatment and prevention, such as PEP medication, at no charge, even for foreigners.
Free wi-fi is available in nearly all accommodations and cafes, and in many public parks and plazas. Internet services are everywhere; rates range from M$10 to M$30 per hour.
Most banks and casas de cambio (exchange offices) change cash and traveler’s checks, but some handle only euros and US or Canadian dollars. Rates vary, so check a few places. Mexico City is one of the few cities in the world where the exchange offices at the airport actually offer competitive rates. Exchange offices in town include CCSole and Centro de Cambios y Divisas.
The greatest concentration of ATMs, banks and casas de cambio is on Paseo de la Reforma between the Monumento a Cristóbal Colón and the Monumento a la Independencia.
Sunday can be a ghost town, and except for chain stores, many businesses and restaurants remain closed.
Official government offices & services 9am–5pm Monday–Friday, sometimes 10am to 3pm Saturday
Restaurants Lunch 1pm–4pm, dinner 6pm–9pm
The Mexican postal service (www.correosdemexico.com.mx) website lists branches throughout the city. For important items, it is recommended to use a more reliable, private courier service.
Palacio Postal The stamp windows, marked 'estampillas,' at the city's main post office stay open beyond normal hours. Even if you don’t need stamps, check out the sumptuous interior.
Use of the bathroom is free at some Sanborns department stores, but otherwise costs M$5. Most market buildings, and holes-in-the-wall near metro stations, have public toilets; just look for the ‘WC’ signs. Hygiene standards vary at these facilities. Toilet paper is dispensed by an attendant on request.
Sectur, the national tourism ministry, hands out brochures on the entire country, though you’re better off at the tourism kiosks for up-to-date information about the capital.
The Mexico City Tourism Secretariat has tourist information kiosks in key areas, including the airport and bus stations. Staff can answer your queries and distribute a map and practical guide. Staff members usually speak English. Most kiosks are open from 9am to 6pm daily.
Basílica Tourist Information On the plaza's south side.
Centro Tourist Information Outside the Catedral Metropolitana.
Chapultepec Tourist Information Near the Museo Nacional de Antropología.
Coyoacán Tourist Information Inside the Casa de Cortés.
Nativitas Tourist Information At the Nativitas boat landing.
Xochimilco Tourist Information Just off the Jardín Juárez.
Zócalo Tourist Information East of the Catedral Metropolitana.
Zona Rosa Tourist Information On the Zona Rosa side of Monumento a la Independencia.
A number of hostels and hotels have on-site agencia de viajes or can recommend one nearby.
Turismo Zócalo Inside the Gran Plaza Ciudad de México mall. Also functions as a Miescape outlet for bus bookings.
Travel with Children
As with elsewhere in Mexico, kids take center stage in the capital.
Museums frequently organize hands-on activities for kids. The Museo de la Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público often stages puppet shows on Sunday. For something that both adults and kids can love, the colorful Museo de Arte Popular tends to win over most children. Another great option is the Museo del Juguete Antiguo México, a fascinating toy museum with more than 60,000 collectibles on display.
Mexico City’s numerous parks and plazas are usually buzzing with kids’ voices. Bosque de Chapultepec is the obvious destination, as it contains the Papalote Museo del Niño, La Feria and several lakes such as the large Lago de Chapultepec with rowboat rentals. In neighboring Polanco is the world-class aquarium Acuario Inbursa. Also consider Condesa’s Parque México, where kids can rent bikes and where Sunday is family-activity day. Plaza Hidalgo in Coyoacán is another fun-filled spot with balloons, street mimes and cotton candy.
Many theaters, including the Centro Cultural del Bosque, Centro Cultural Helénico and the Foro Shakespeare, stage children’s plays and puppet shows on weekends and during school holidays. Animated movies are a staple at cinemas around town, though keep in mind that children’s films are usually dubbed in Spanish.
In Xochimilco kids will find riding the gondolas through the canals as magical as any theme park. Also in this part of town is the Museo Dolores Olmedo, where peacocks and pre-Hispanic dogs occupy the gardens. Children’s shows are performed in the patio on Saturday and Sunday at 1pm, and the museum offers workshops for children.
In late October look out for the parade and display of giant alebrijes (painted wooden carvings), and the Día de Muertos parade, both along Reforma.
For more on activities for children, see the 'Infantiles' section at the Conaculta (www.mexicoescultura.com) website; or the 'Family' events on the CDMX Travel (www.cdmxtravel.com) site in English.
Most metro stations and trains are too cramped and hot for prams and lack elevators. Baby-change facilities are available at most museums, but only in the larger restaurants. Even without children, walking through crowds in the centro histórico can be a tiring experience, while the leafy, compact centers at the heart of the neighborhoods of Roma, Condesa and Coyoacán allow for a little more freedom of movement without having to constantly hand hold.