Nuts-and-bolts information to plan your trip, plus a checklist of essentials to include when you pack and a list of links to local media

Planning

Entry Requirements: U.S. citizens need a valid passport and tourist visa (available at entry point) to visit Mexico. Standard tourist visas are valid for up to 180 days.

Security: Mexico City’s bark is worse than its bite, but avoid wearing ostentatious jewelry or fancy watches on the streets or in public transport, do not take street cabs, and be alert when out drinking.

Time Difference: Mexico City is one hour behind U.S. eastern standard time.

Money: The currency is the Mexican peso. For current conversion rates go to OANDA Currency Converter. www.oanda.com/convert/classic

Phone Calls: The area code for Mexico City is 55. For phone calls to Mexico City from abroad, dial 52 55 eight-digit phone number. From within the city dial only the eight-digit number. However, many businesses are using mobile phones, which require 044 55 plus an eight-digit number for local calls, and 52 1 55 before the eight-digit number for international calls.

When to Go: The weather is temperate and agreeable year round with April to June being the hottest and driest months, and October to January getting chilly in the evenings. Months from June to October see tropical downpours, usually limited from around 4 p.m. until the early evening. Semana Santa (the week before Easter) is one of the best times to visit the capital.

Getting There: Over 20 airlines offer international flights to and through Mexico City International Airport (MEX), which is located east—and 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the traffic—from the capital’s center. Toluca International airport (TLC) to the west also serves the capital and is the hub for budget flights to other Mexican destinations, with connections by bus from the western suburb of Santa Fe and Lomas Altas.

Getting Around: Mexico City’s metro system is cheap, fast, and easy to understand but newcomers are advised to avoid rush hours and make use of the service after 9:30 a.m. and before 5 p.m. The same applies to the Metrobus. Taxis from a reliable taxi stand are an inexpensive way to reach your destination quickly. For extensive sightseeing or pyramid visits, consider hiring a cab for a day.

Checklist

Tips: “Dress in layers, as it’s cool in the mornings and hot in the middle of the day and the metro of course is boiling. Take a rain shell and umbrella for the summer months.” Marion Lloyd, freelance writer based in Mexico City. The way to the heart is through the stomach here too. Mexicans are always mollified if you tell them you love the food.

Security for Women: It’s a good idea to leave any visible signs of wealth behind before heading to Mexico City. Take care to keep purses close as long strings can be easily cut. Keep in mind that locals can often tell you’re a tourist, even if you think you’re blending in.

Be Prepared: If you are in Mexico City when an earthquake tremor hits, stay away from buildings or other materials that could come loose and strike you. If you are caught inside of a building, find shelter in a door frame, beneath a sturdy table, or in the corner.

Sun Protection: Sunblock and a hat or baseball cap are essential to avoid sunburn.

Water: Mexico City is at a higher altitude than many American cities. Bring plenty of water when you walk around as the altitude makes dehydration more common.

Phone Cards: Purchase Ladatel telephone cards at magazine stands and convenience stores.

Ear Plugs: This is the capital of noise pollution, from the rumble and screech of traffic, fireworks, music played so loud it is distorted, and millions of humans competing to get themselves heard one way or another. Bring earplugs for your afternoon siesta and evening sleep.

Addresses and Slear Directions: “When headed somewhere, to avoid getting lost, have [a written copy of] the name of the street and the esquina (cross street), as well as the colonia and, if possible, a nearby landmark.”—Rob Walker, director, Latinreport.

Altitude Adjustment: “Altitude sickness can strike regardless of age or level of fitness. Travelers with heart or lung disorders should check with their physicians prior to travel to Mexico City.”—Robert Page.

Appropriate Attire: “Think of yourself visiting a big city anywhere in Europe or North America—you’re not going to see a lot of people walking around in shorts and sandals.”—Chris Humphrey, author, Moon Handbooks: Mexico City.

Web Links

Planeta.com

Pioneering ecotourism website and “global journal of practical ecotourism,” including urban ecotourism. Articles, reviews, and up-to-date tips on “one of the oldest cities in the Americas.” www.planeta.com/df.html

Official Mexico City Tourism Homepage

Multilingual website with upcoming cultural events and festivals, plus up-to-date information about museums and places of interest. www.mexicocity.gob.mx

Mexperience

Independent, online travel resource with real estate, lifestyle, and culture guides, business travel information, and photographs. www.mexperience.com/

Mexican Wave

British website earned the prestigious Mexican Tourist Board Lente de Plata (Silver Lens) award in 2003 for being the best travel site. Blogs, photos, and insider travel tips. www.mexicanwave.com

Mexico Connect

Comprehensive website (subscription $30 per year) on all aspects of Mexico information. New articles every month and resource base of 12,000 articles. www.mexconnect.com

Mexico Premiere

A fairly new website with smatterings of everything relevant, from news, art and culture, golf, real estate, Mexican wine, World Heritage, and city profiles. www.mexicopremiere.com

Photographs

Wide variety of photos giving a down-to-earth look at and feel for the city. www.flickr.com/photos/planeta/collections/72157600078971332

Jim Budd

Articles by a seasoned travel columnist, with insights into Mexican history, archaeology, travel tips, and including daily news items. www.jimmbudd.com

Guía Roji

Map site for the ever-changing and expanding capital. Click Mexico City, then colonias, enter your neighborhood, and you will have an accurate and detailed map. http://www.guiaroji.com.mx/

Local Media

Chilango

The racy Time Out-style monthly glossy of Mexico City bars, clubs, fashions, and people. In Spanish for the young and style-conscious. www.chilango.com

Inside Mexico

English language monthly focusing on the latest happenings in Mexico, directed at foreign residents. Includes useful guides to Mexico City’s colonias (neighborhoods). www.insidemex.com

Guía del Angel Reforma

Newspaper’s Spanish-language homepage. Includes maps, shopping mall information, and reviews of new restaurants. www.reforma.com

Milenio Daily

Newspaper and weekly magazine with up-to-date news in Spanish and political analysis. www.milenio.com

Traveler’s Guide

Useful Mexico City section for shopping, nightlife, and what to see and do in major zones of the capital. www.travelersguidetomexico.com

El Universal

One of the country’s major Spanish language newspapers with solid city news and a lively weekend travel section “Destinos.” www.eluniversal.com

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