A seasoned traveler, to places that are even considered “unsafe”, I knew that the media hype on the drug cartels in Mexico has created an image of kidnapping and brutality. That is not to say that Mexico City is not dangerous, but I knew that many Americans throw Mexico City and Ciudad de Juarez in the same category.
Just to ease my own doubt, I jumped on the U.S. State Department Travel warnings to view the Mexico Travel Advisory, which listed Mexico City with “No advisory is in effect.” I spoke with my friend at the Embassy about potential safety risks in Mexico City. The risks were similar in many other major cities. At the airport, you are highly encouraged to catch a taxi from one of the inside taxi kiosks. You do not walk around with flashy jewelry. You do not go into areas that are sketchy or not well lit. At night you stick to populated, well-lit areas. And on public transportation, you are aware of your bags and purses. All of these precautions are things I already do on a daily basis in my current hometown of Washington, DC. I would never leave the airport at Reagan-National to catch a random taxi that wasn’t at the official taxi stand. I avoid all sketchy areas and at night I stick to well-lit streets, being aware of my surroundings at all times. Every day I take a risk at being mugged, assaulted or worse by just stepping out my door. Traveling to places like Mexico City, I just have to heighten those precautions a little more and increase my awareness.
I did my research, spoke with my friend at the US Embassy, and packed my bags. I was off! What I found was not a frightening city with the prospect of kidnap, but rather, a cosmopolitan, bustling, and exciting city. Mexico City is a mix of charming neighborhoods, artwork that includes murals by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, culture, dancing, fun, five star restaurants, world-class chefs, delicious street food, and genuinely warm, kind people.
Sometimes in life you just have to live a little. Don’t be stupid; but analyze the risk, think of the precautions, and make the jump. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find.
Read more for Things to See and Do.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Zócalo: the main plaza of Mexico City, formerly known as Plaza de la Constitución. Here you can visit Palacio Nacional, the government seat of the Mexican President. Go inside to see one of Diego Rivera’s famous murals. Stop for drinks at the rooftop of the Best Western Majestic Hotel which offers spectacular view of the plaza.
Walk along the pedestrian street of Avenida Francisco Madero towards Palacio de Artes Bellas. Along the way stop at Casa Azulejos (House of Tiles) and get a coffee in the beautiful café inside.
Churros and Chocolate: for what some may say are the best Churros and Chocolate in town, head to the El Moro Churreria (Eje central Lázaro Cárdenas #42)
Plaza Garibaldi: to see mariachis play in the streets, head to this plaza. Grab a seat at Tenampa and listen to the mariachis play. Just beware: the area can be unsafe at night.
Polanco: considered the wealthy, and at times, stuck-up, neighborhood, Polanco is the charming, quieter side of Mexico City. High-end stores and five star restaurants line the streets in this neighborhood.
Pujol: listed as one of the Best 50 Restaurants in the World, Pujol is the top restaurant in Mexico City. A set menu dictates what you eat which is a play on Mexican street food. Come hungry, but make sure to make reservations far in advance and get ready for New York City prices.
Museo Nacional de Antropología: the museum contains archaeological and anthropological artifacts from the pre-Colombian days of Mexico.
San Ángel: an artsy neighborhood a subway ride from the center. On weekends there is the San Ángel market with food and artwork.
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera House: Frida’s childhood house is in Coyocoáán, but the house she lived in with her artist husband Diego, is in San Angel.