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The Essential Things to Know Before You Visit Mexico City

Follow these tips, and you may even be mistaken for a local.

It's easy to get lost in a city of 8.8 million, but much harder to fit in. Don't want to get it wrong? Here's how to avoid looking like a tourist while still getting the most out of this truly international city.

How to Greet Someone

Unless you're greeting a friend—women will quickly kiss on the right cheek, men may hug—a handshake is the way to go. And, while it may be time consuming if you're being introduced to several people, try to shake everyone's hand rather than defaulting into the American group greeting of "hey guys."

How to Get Around

The subway is fast, cheap, and will get you pretty much everywhere you want to go. It's safe, but the universal rules of riding the subway in any major city do apply: keep your eyes on your stuff and try to look like you know where you're going. Uber and Cabify are great alternatives and are inexpensive compared with rates in the U.S. or Europe. There's also Laudrive, which is like Uber, but exclusively for women.

What to Wear

Yes, you're in Mexico, but you're not in Cabo or Tulum, and you're definitely not going to be wearing flip-flops and cut-offs. First, the weather isn't always balmy—it's rarely hotter than 80 and can drop to the 40s during winter months. More importantly, this is a chic and sophisticated city more akin to sartorial Madrid or Buenos Aires than Puerto Vallarta. For men and women, nice jeans, a button-down or blouse, and nice leather sneakers—not of the running shoe variety—is a good look. It's not about looking dressed up, but rather about looking stylishly put together.

Dos and Don'ts:

Do greet people with a "good morning" or "good afternoon," and make eye contact when you enter a store or restaurant. Despite being relatively laid-back, Mexicans are incredibly respectful and courteous.

Don't offer to split the check if you've invited a friend for drinks or dinner: if you did the inviting, you're doing the paying.

Do eat the street food—if there's a line by the cart, you should be good.

Don't jump into the taxis you see driving around the city—call an Uber or Cabify.

Don't try to pay with American dollars. Unlike big tourists cities like Cancun or Cabo, most businesses won't accept dollars—and if they do, you don't want the exchange rate they're offering.

Words and Phrases to Know

When asking where something is, how much a certain item costs, if there's room at the bar, or really just about any question—or anytime you need to get someone's attention—preface it with "disculpe" (excuse me).

Before (or while) you squeeze past someone or reach over them, say "con permiso": also excuse me, but more like, "With your permission I'm going to do something that could be a little rude if I didn't let you know that I know it's a little rude."

Nothing screams tourist more than not knowing the right greeting for a certain time of day:

Before noon: "Buenos días" (good morning, good day) From noon until roughly dark: "Buenas tardes" (good afternoon) At night: "Buenas noches" (good evening, good night)

If you don't know Spanish beyond, "hola, por favor, gracias," and "adios," at least learn this: "Lo siento, pero no hablo español" (I'm sorry, I don't speak Spanish).

By: Rebeca Misner, Condé Nast Traveler

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