These mistakes people make when visiting Mexico City shed light on some common pitfalls first-timers often face when travelling to the Mexican capital. Besides info on scams and petty crimes, we’ve included some time and money-saving hints as well as fun pointers on local food and beverages.

    Read on to learn more about what not to do in Mexico City on your 1st visit. Any travel experience should be smooth and enjoyable. Read on to learn more about these common mistakes below to ensure that your visit to Mexico City is free from jeopardy. We’ve included some potentially lifesaving tips for good measure as well.

    1

    Thinking Mexico City is hot like rest of the country

    Pack accordingly… it can get quite cold!

    Many assume that it’s hot all over Mexico – its capital included. But Mexico City has a subtropical highland climate with rather mild weather throughout the day. The summer nights are cool but temperatures can drop to freezing in winter. The city even saw instances of snow a few times in the past. It’s something to consider besides packing just light clothing and beachwear.

    2

    Falling for airport tour agents and timeshares

    Beware of abrupt welcomes after you land

    Timeshare scams aren’t unique just to Mexico City, and they’re still found in many other places the world. Interestingly, agents often start targeting you right after baggage claims with high-pressure tactics.

    Unknowing travellers may easily get distracted (lured in) by the very welcoming staff of tour companies. They entice you out of the blue from the bustling line to book a tour. More than often, others sit you down for a timeshare presentation when you’d better be off declining and making your way to your hotel. It’s best to plan your time in Mexico City well, arrange and book all your tours – perhaps even your airport transfers – in advance.

    3

    Not carrying enough change in pesos

    For frequent purchases and small payments

    Once you’ve changed your dollars to Mexican pesos, you’ll likely be holding the big bills – denominations of 500, 200, or 100. Do note that you’ll be shopping around and paying small sums during your time in the city such as for the short taxi ride, at small shops and local restaurants that might have a hassle returning small change.

    4

    Hailing a fake taxi

    It's best to order from a sitio or use rideshares

    Hailing any taxi on the street in Mexico City has its risks – you might end up with a sketchy one that’s not authorised or metered. Most Mexican cities have formal sitios (formal taxi ranks) that offer reputable fleets and reliable services. You should stick to these or have your hotel call one for you. Alternatively, use popular rideshares like Uber.

    5

    Not keeping your valuables close and secure

    Pickpockets pry your belongings, especially in crowded places

    Mexico City’s bustling and touristy places are usually hot playgrounds for pickpockets. Metro stations and markets are more so. Being extra vigilant and well-prepared helps minimise risks.

    Bringing just the right amount of money for your day out, secure money belts, zipped pockets, and wearing a backpack in the front are some of the good measures. Don’t bring important documents like passports with you – they should be locked in your hotel room safe.

    6

    Mistaking Tex-Mex for authentic Mexican food

    They aren’t the same

    Visiting Mexico, it’s always worth trying out the local cuisine. By that, we mean authentic Mexican food. And by authentic Mexican, we mean dishes prepared with more emphasis on flavour using fresh spices and herbs. Not burritos and nachos heavily doused in melted cheese.

    If you’ve sat down for a serving of fajitas prepared using Italian dressing, Worcestershire and topped with creamy cheese, you might be better off in Texas. Sure, Mexican food covers a wide range of flavours and dishes that hail from different regions. But do start simple and check out real tacos, for instance – traditional ones are prepared using well-seasoned and perfectly cooked meats and wrapped in tortillas.

    7

    Underestimating spiciness levels

    No doubt, chillies are essential in Mexican cooking

    If you’re on a Mexican culinary adventure but not so acquainted with the spiciness levels of the food, mind that some traditional Mexican dishes can get quite spicy. That varies depending on the region, though, as traditional dishes from the country’s capital is known to be subtler and more savoury.

    Still, it’s one factor to consider besides hygiene when exploring the local food scene – to ensure you’ll be free from Montezuma’s Revenge.

    8

    Drinking the wrong tequila… and as shots

    Locals sip theirs, without the fuss of salt or lime

    You can hardly consider your visit to Mexico complete without tasting real, locally produced tequila. The real deal is produced in 5 Mexican states, much in the way of appellations like French Champagne or Italian Chianti.  

    Mexico’s native beverage is made from blue agave, a pineapple lookalike. The fruits are heated and their juice extracted before running through a distillation process. This results in the real deal – 100% blue agave tequila. Locals sip their delicious tequila pure and without fancy salted rims.

    9

    Drinking on public streets

    It's illegal

    Drinking in public areas is against Mexican law. It’s okay to enjoy alcohol within the confines of a bar or your resort’s grounds, but if the Policia Federal catches you staggering down a street with alcoholic drinks being consumed, you face the risk of arrest or a fine.

    10

    Walking or taking public transport at night

    Some barrios have higher crime rates

    Getting around in Mexico City gets somewhat riskier after sundown. Walking around the city at night is not advisable, moreover for lone travellers. Public transport, especially metros and indistinguishable taxis are best avoided since they’re sometimes surveilled by criminals after dark.

    If you do need to wander at night, it’s best to travel as a pack. Some barrios in Mexico City are known for higher crime rates than others – simply avoid them altogether. Among the notorious are La Joya, Tepito, La Lagunilla, and Nezahualcoyotl. Stick to the main tourist areas and you'll be fine. 

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

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