Our annual holiday vacation is set. Destination: Mexico City! If you’ve been, I’d love to know what your favorite attraction, experience, or food adventure was!
This year’s planning was a little tough. With a very grey Seattle winter shrouding over me, wander lust hit hard. I wanted to go everywhere that was as far away from overcast and rain as possible. I considered a few really good options in addition to Mexico City that I could not bring myself to agree to for various reasons. Then, one weekend morning, I received an alert from a travel site letting me know that tickets to Mexico City took a dive in price. I could not turn that down. I’ve had Mexico City on my radar for as long as I can remember. (Okay, I’ve been wanting to go to Mexico City since I saw the The Chipmunk Adventure in the late 80s and danced and sang along to the song “I like you very much”).
As for our accommodations, we’ll be renting a room from a couple in their secure loft. We’ll have access to kitchen, bath, and terrace with grill. On our trips to Paris and Portugal we rented entire apartments, but this time around we felt like meeting people and benefiting from their wisdom of the area. Sharing a space is also very economical.
Most of our friends are excited for us. With that said, some have asked about safety. Generally speaking, to the U.S., Mexico is a dangerous place riddled with cartel violence, random kidnappings, and more. I’ve read about these things happening throughout the country, and I’m not ignorant of the violence that happens. There are definitely places one should avoid, but I’ve also heard of pleasant experiences in Mexico City with no troubles and only minor annoyances. With a brief search, I found the following articles:
Myths of Violence in Mexico City: Is it Safe to Travel There?
by January 21, 2016
Mexico City Myths Debunked
by Naomi Tomky, June 8, 2015
Both articles do not deny past worries, but plainly state that it’s like any other world city and with less violence than some U.S. cities. As one points out, it’s not like we look up crime statistics when we fly to places like D.C., Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, or L.A., do we? I’d also like to point out that these posts are fairly recent and were written by women.
One piece of advice I’d not thought about was about hailing a taxis (I’m not sure how much we’ll use one, as I hear there metro system is far-reaching and trains come within minutes of each other). From various sources within the last five years, it is strongly suggested that one should not hail a taxi from the street; not even at the airport. It’s recommended that one go to a sitio stand and call to get a taxi to pick you up. With that said, some have hailed cabs from the street several times during a trip without incident. A rather involved technique one couple used was for one of them to hail a taxi and check for a posted ID and license and meter, and if it looked safe, he’d wave to his partner who was standing 40 ft away who would then run over to join him.
Personally, I think we’ll be fine. I like to think I have a good amount of common sense, and I always do a little research to remind myself of things I might not always think of. As for language, my husband has a good grasp of Spanish (he is of Mexican descent, but has spent most of his life in the U.S.), and I have some, so we won’t feel so fish-out-of-water as we did in Paris and Portugal with our limited skills. We’ve also been practicing our conversational practice semi-regularly.
Another question is in regard of the Zika Virus that has struck mainly Brazil, but has worked its way up to parts of Mexico. The virus is spread by mosquitos, and there are various theories floating around about its origin. It’s been advised for those of child-bearing age to avoid travel to climes where mosquitos can thrive. Journey Mexico has published the number of women infected and all are local cases from areas where mosquitos could thrive (damp, humid, and hot/warm places). The probability of Mexico City being affected is lower due to its high altitude. And from what I’ve read, it’s fairly dry with only 10% humidity right now and temperatures of 78F/25C. It’s suggested to be very similar in May. (Seattle is at 84% and 47F/8C today). Mosquitos thrive in warm, humid, and wet environments. And (knock on wood), my history with mosquitoes has been that they don’t seem to like me. But just to be safe, I’ve already invested in repellent with SPF and bracelets loaded with plant oil and chemicals that should ward off mosquitos.
One thing I hadn’t thought about is the size of the city and its population. Distrito Federal (the core of Greater Mexico City) is comprised of nearly 9 million people (I checked a few sites for that number). So if there’s anything to get ready for it’s preparing for a huge population shift between here and there (Seattle’s population is 668,342 according to the U.S. Census Bureau (2014). To add to that, the elevation of the city roughly 7,200-7,300 ft. above sea level (2,250 m). Seattle sits at 518 ft/158 m. Yikes!
In the mean time, I’ll continue to read the guidebook I purchased Mexico City: An Opinionated Guide for the Curious Traveler by artist/NYC transplant/16-year resident of Mexico City, Jim Johnston. He has honest and warm observations of the city and suggested walking tours I hope will help us in our daily decision-making. But one thing is for certain, we are going to try lots of food and drinks. I’m already dreaming of fresh authentic Mexican dishes under sunny skies with a cold beverage. Mmm… I can’t wait!