It’s been awhile since I’ve been there but I can recommend my own personal traveling preferences. First, brush up on your Spanish, very important. Second, I think it’s still legal to carry pepper spray. DO SO and travel the back roads at every opportunity you can. Ask around for the local “Markets”… outdoor marketing with loads for sale and excellent Christmas buys for the entire family back home. And I mean EXCELLENT buys! Check out the local artists and museums. There is loads of fun to be had in Mexico if you know the language.
Thanks so much Kimberly. Did you rent a car to get around or take a bus or what? I have heard it can be difficult to drive, especially around Mexico City, but that gives me a lot more flexibility.
Can’t wait to check out the markets!
Yeah. Definately Check Out the Markets. Try some Torta De Pollo and mango Liquados. You Should Definately try to check Out Taxco! Really really Beautiful Town that has stores selling silver everwhere. If your in taxco on Good Friday to Easter you can see the Semanna Santa processions in the Town square (zócalo) in front of the Santa Prisca cathedral. I stayed at the Agua Escondida Hotel right by the Square. I reccomend it! and be sure to always lock your car doors and hide any name brand clothes. ie Nike. oh ya! It’s been a few yeas since I was in Mexico.. But they loved Nike clothes and would trade lots of stuff for it. Not sure if its like that anymore thuogh.
Thanks a lot man. So did you rent a car while you were there? I am debating between that or just taking buses around. I heard driving can be dangerous, especially in Mexico City, but it certainly does give you more flexibility. Unfortunately I won’t be around over Good Friday or Easter so I won’t get to experience the processions. Planning to go next week actually…2/16-2/23. Have a rental car reserved but just wondering if it’s better to take public transportation.
well.. My father drove down with his Jimmy and me and my brother flew down an met him in Mexico City. Its been about 8 years and I didn’t drive then. So i don’t know if I can answer this. We Rented a VW once down there. Make sure it works good if you rent though. Ours was falling apart. lol.. but another tip. Don’t carry too much big bills. try to have small bills cause the Cops stop tourists sometimes for whatever reason and want bribes. But I would rent a car so I could go check out back roads and have more flexibility.
Mexico City is a particularly hard city to drive in. I was born there and I lived there for a number of years. They have excellent public transportation though, and Taxis are plentiful and not very expensive. Do get a number of a couple of cab companies in the cities where you will be however, as a foreigner it is much safer to call a radio cab than to flag down one on the street. Heed this warning. This city was the kidnapping capital of the world until not too long ago.
Always check the travel alerts and warnings at http://travel.state.gov/
Now, if you do decide to drive, make it a point to ask the rental car company what day(s) your car will not be allowed to be driven. Mexico City has a program to ground cars (once or twice a week) based on the ending number of their license plate number, so make sure to take that into account in your travel plans.
Now basically you must know about two major highways. Crossing the city North-South is the “Periferico”, and East-West is the “Viaducto”. When you get there buy a map, “Guia Roji” is a giant map/book, with a “key map” showing the whole city and book pages. Get into a Starbucks or something and go through it, making sure you understand it, before you venture out for a long drive.
On the streets, speed bumps are common to regulate speed. Some of these are pretty tall “locals call them ‘a monument to a speed bump’”. Most of the time they’re not even painted so be on the lookout for those. Like in most of the countries in development, laws do exist but a lot of locals don’t seem to care – as such, be on the lookout for cyclists who don’t have required reflective gear, etcetera. About a third of the drivers use signal indicators to switch lanes, which is low but high enough that you will probably be understood if you use them (just don’t assume they will) :-) In Mexico it is not customary to keep too much of a safe distance unless it’s on highways so if you do be prepared for the guy behind you to get mad at you and the guy beside you to cut you off – you’ll get used to the proper distance pretty quickly after a few minutes of this.
Toll (Cuota) highways are usually good but not excellent (the toll higway going down to Cuernavaca, then Acapulco, is expensive but arguably the best in the country).
Drive defensively and GETINSURANCE, both personal travel and the car insurance. Insurance is not compulsory (it has been tried to make it so but so far not a lot of success) so make sure your insurance will cover all cases. It is normal on a bad accident to be held until blame is assessed, so make sure you have the phone# of the US (or your country of origin’s) consulate.
On the cuota highways, the tourism department has “green angel” patrols (Angeles Verdes), basically a free roadside assistance program which will help out with minor repairs and will sell you some extra fuel if you ran out. They ride green trucks (sometimes a tow type, sometimes a pickup type). They are very nice and they don’t charge although they accept tips.
When you park in public places sometimes kids will ask you “le cuido su coche” (I’ll watch over your car) for a small fee of course. Depending on the place this may actually be a good thing. Agree on a specific kid, how much you will give him and be wary of other kids saying they took care of your car trying to take the fee away from the first one ;-)
Now for tourism, Mexico City is a wonderful tourist destination – you could spend months discovering new things. It’s the oldest continuously populated city in the continent (1300s until now), and has been a power center since shortly after its inception, so there is a lot to see, no matter your taste.
First you must visit the center square (Zocalo) and see the “Templo Mayor”, which was built by the Aztecs originally and recently unearthed. Look at the beautiful colonial buildings and architecture. Buy a book on the Mexican conquest and read it as you are traveling. It will make it incredibly exciting to see the places where all this stuff happened.
If you are interested in Museums, Mexico city is the Washington DC of Mexico. Their “smithsonian” equivalent is at the Chapultepec park – the National Antropology Museum. There is also a tech museum in the same park.
The Castle of Chapultepec, which you can visit, was the president’s residence during Maximilian times (the French intervention) and all the way until the current residence was built. The castle is a museum of military history and one of the most beautiful castles outside Europe.
If you like concerts, check out what’s playing at the Auditorio Nacional, a giant concert hall across the way from Chapultepec Park.
If you want to see in one place all three influences of the city, go to the “Plaza de las 3 Culturas”. It has a pyramid, a colonial building and a modern building on the same plaza. It is also sadly famous for being the site of the student massacre of ’68.
The Zona Rosa is a nice place to have a cup of coffee in the afternoon and see the modern City and financial hub. It’s also an important nightclub spot.
The Condesa neighborhood is one of the newer yuppie and yippie hotspots both day and night. Lots of nice cafes and areas where middle class locals like to hang out, and if you must have organic everything, this is where you want to go.
For high class areas and highly exclusive shopping and dining, Polanco is probably your best bet. To see the “TV People”, they usually hang out in the southern part of the City, the “San Angel” area. Coyoacan is also another nice spot to visit, and it has its own downtown.
If you’re into visiting colleges, you must go to the Ciudad Universitaria, at the South of Mexico city. It’s one of the largest universities anywhere (its actually its own city – the signs change to blue so you know you’re inside of “C.U.”). They have their own museums, and their own olympic stadium (the 1968 olympics were here).
If you’re into pyramids, go visit Teotihuacan, which is a few minutes out of the city. It is a large prehispanic city with two major pyramids.
Here are some of my flickr photos. I need to put more but here they are.
Zihuatanejo is mostly beaches and fun in the Sun. Acapulco’s beaches are not that great but it is very famous and there is a lot more to see (and some of the best nightlife anywhere). Check out the cliff divers and look at the sites famous in the 50’s when Acapulco was “the place” to vacation for Elvis, Sinatra and John Wayne. In my opinion most of the fun in Acapulco is at night so you want to “change phase” to nighttime during this part.
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