Mexico City is one of the most exquisite cities in Latin America, but it is also considered a "megatropolis", boasting the highest population in North America at 22 million people. So how do you plan to efficiently see the city and take the best photographs? Follow a few simple tips and you will be able to navigate and manage your time and get the most out of one of the largest cities in the world.
1. Concentrate on a few Neighborhoods
Mexico City is a collection of neighborhoods. Be aware that getting from point A to point B, i.e. Xochimilco to the Zocalo is like going from Malibu to Downtown LA. If you have a weekend in Mexico City, concentrate on a few neighborhoods that interest you to avoid spending all the time on the road.
A few notable neighborhoods with lots of beautiful sights to photograph are the Roma and Condesa districts which are known for hip and interesting shops and beautiful park-like streets. Polanco is the swanky Beverly Hills-like district filled with museums. Centro is where you will find historic architecture and the Zocalo. Coyoacan to the south is a peaceful neighborhood where Frida Kahlo's house is located.
2. Getting Around - Walk, Bike, Metro, or Turibus
With all the traffic, let's just say that driving in Mexico City is best left to the experts. The best options for tourists are:
3. Map Out the Sights
I made a custom map with all the sights that I wanted to visit on my trip. That way, I could see the distance and plan my route. I could decide which sights were in the same area and if I could walk or take the metro there.
You can also download my custom GPS Map which will work without using your phone data.
4. DSLR - To Bring or Not to Bring?
I chose not to bring my DSLR because I wanted to be hands-free while walking the city and also did not want to stand out as a tourist. My iPhone sufficed for taking photos and was more discrete than my DSLR. A GoPro is also a good choice as it is compact and easy to carry. However, if you bring a DSLR, the best spots to take it are the museums or Chapultepec Castle which is a beautiful place to take photos.
5. Brush up on your Spanish
In Mexico City, you will need to know basic Spanish at least. While it is feasible to get by without any Spanish, your trip will be easier and more fulfilling if you know some Spanish. How much Spanish do you need? Think about all the things you ask strangers on a daily basis. Be able to ask and answer for the time, help, directions, recommendations, and most importantly: ordering food. Make sure to practice pronunciation before embarking on a trip to Mexico City. If your Spanish is limited, the best option is to travel with a guide who can translate for you.
6. Choose Attire Wisely
Mexico City covers 573 square miles and you will be walking a lot. Bring walking shoes. I recommend dressing in similar attire that you would wear to Disneyland - casual clothes, no bling, closed-toe shoes, layers for weather, sunscreen, a hat, etc. Bring a cross body bag for your belongings. Don't carry a lot of cash either - credit cards will work just fine in Mexico City.
7. Get Global Access on Your Phone
Mexico City is huge and you will likely need your phone for GPS and directions. I got a travel pass with Verizon. There are also SIM cards that you can buy at the airport to access data abroad.
8. Get Started Early
If you are going to the pyramids or museums, get there early. It gets increasingly crowded in the afternoon when tour buses arrive. Check the hours of each museum. Some stay open late, others close on certain days of the week. Get tickets to the Friday Kahlo Museum in advance as it is very popular and lines can last over an hour on weekends.
What are your favorite tips for visiting Mexico City?
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We are two adventurous young professionals who turned our passion for travel into a blog to help others travel more.