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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.

Adapting to the pace and lifestyle of a city as large and diverse as Mexico City, without standing out as a tourist, can be a challenge, but with a few practical tips, you can immerse yourself in the local culture and enjoy the city in an authentic way. Here are a few recommendations:

  1. Dress like a local: Mexico City has quite a varied style, but in general, city dwellers opt for a casual-chic style. Avoid wearing clothes that scream "tourist", such as safari hats, T-shirts with tourist logos or extremely comfortable but unaesthetic shoes. That doesn't mean you should sacrifice comfort, just try to adapt your wardrobe to the urban environment.

  2. Use public transportation: Familiarize yourself with the Sistema de Transporte Colectivo Metro, RTP buses, and EcoBici bicycles. It is economical, efficient and will give you a real insight into the daily life of the city's inhabitants. Always avoiding cabs or private transportation services will help you blend in better.

  3. Learn key phrases in Spanish: Although in many tourist areas you will find English speakers, learning some basic Spanish phrases (greetings, ordering in restaurants, how to ask for directions) will not only help you navigate the city, but will also show respect for the local culture.

  4. Avoid tourist traps: Opt to eat where the locals do, avoiding restaurants with English menus that are located in the more touristy areas. Seek out authentic street food places or local markets for a more genuine experience.

  5. Adapt your schedule: Mexico City has a particular rhythm of life; for example, dinners tend to be later than in many other places. Adapting to this schedule will not only allow you to experience the city like a local, but also avoid the crowds of tourists.

  6. Research and respect local customs: Understanding a little about social etiquette, politeness and traditions can go a long way. For example, it is common to greet with a kiss on the cheek when meeting, something that may not be customary in all cultures.

  7. Explore beyond the tourist sites: While places like the Zócalo, Chapultepec and the most famous museums are a must, try to explore neighborhoods less known by tourists, such as Colonia Roma, the Condesa, or even further afield like Coyoacán or San Ángel. This will give you a broader and richer view of the city.

  8. Be aware of your surroundings: As in any big city, it is important to be aware of your belongings and avoid showing valuables in public. Maintain a confident but cautious attitude.

By following these tips, you will be able to enjoy Mexico City in a more authentic and enriching way, immersing yourself in the local culture without standing out as an obvious tourist. Get ready for an unforgettable experience!

Words and phrases to know

When asking where something is, how much a certain item costs, if there's room at the bar or any other question, or whenever you need to get someone's attention, be ready with "excuse me".

Before (or while) walking over someone, say "excuse me": also excuse me, but more like "with your permission I'm going to do something that might be a little rude if I didn't tell you that I know it's a little rude."

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

Before noon: "Buenos días" (good morning, good day).

From noon to almost dusk: "Buenas tardes" (good afternoon).

In the evening: "Buenas noches" (good night).

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


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