Travel Mexico City: Guide

Travel Mexico City: Guide

Mexico City is a vibrant city that serves as the capital of Mexico. The greater metropolitan area is huge – there are an estimated 26 million people living in the region. It is also home to largest number of US expats in the world. As such, one should look into how to budget travel Mexico City.

The high number of expats and tourists speaks to the fact that Mexico City is a cheap place to visit and live, while also offering safety and a comfortable lifestyle.

While one can certainly dish out their money – it is also easy to be budget travelers while in Mexico City. With a little planning, it’s not hard to enjoy the city and take advantage of much of what it has to offer.

Travel Mexico City: Districts & Regions

Mexico City is officially divided into 16 different “Delegaciones”each of which is further subdivided into Colonias. Each delegacion offers its own activities, charm, and character to the city. While it’s not necessary – or probable – to visit every area, you are likely to visit many of them. Some of the more notable of these regions are:

Bosques de la Loma

Bosques de la Loma is the highest-end colonia in Mexico City. It is primarily a residential neighborhood, consisting of gated communities and luxury apartments. There is also a large Jewish community.

Public transportation here is virtually non-existent, with most people relying on cars. However, with few attractions here, you are unlikely to visit. Most budget travelers will not venture here due to pricing being above average US housing costs.

For those who are willing to spend the money, it does offer high-quality amenities and a safe and quiet neighborhood.

Centro Historico

Templo Mayor Ruins with Metropolitan Cathedral in Background

Centro Historico is the central delegacion in Mexico City. Tourists and locals alike will spend time here. Cheap activities abound and is easily navigable. It is the heart of the city, containing a large number of attractions:

  • Zocalo – The largest plaza in Latin America, and the third largest in the world. Zocalo serves as an open air space used for festivals, performances, and protests. Built in 1521 atop Monteczuma’s Palace, it serves as a portal to the rest of Centro Historico.
  • Mexico City Cathedral – On the north edge of Zocalo, the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral stands atop ruins of Templo Mayor. Built in pieces from 1573 – 1813, it is seen as a cultural center for Mexico City, and a consolidating power of Spanish dominance. It’s also the largest cathedral in the Americas.
  • National Palace – The entire east side of Zocalo is dominated by the government seat here. It is home to the Federal Treasury and National Archives. Visitors can view Palace Gardens and murals by Diego Rivera.
  • Palacio de Bellas Artes – Located in Alameda Central Park, in the western region of Centro Historico, the Palace of Fine Arts is a prominent cultural center. It hosts exhibits of: music; dance; theatre; opera; literature; and more.
  • Templo Mayor – On the north side of Zocalo, just east of the cathedral, lie the ruins of Templo Mayor. These ruins were once the religious center of Tenochtitlan, dominated with a large pyramid complex.
  • More – There are numerous shops, cafes, and restaurants in the area. As well, numerous smaller spaces begging for exploration.

Zocalo Mexico City

As a whole, we thoroughly enjoyed Centro Historico. It is easy to walk through, and offers a lot to do. Backpackers, budget travelers, families, and high-end tourists can keep entertained and well fed. This is a must-see, must-do neighborhood in Mexico City.

Condesa / Roma

La Churreria

The Condesa district and neighboring Roma, is the chic region of Mexico City. Once falling into disrepair, it is now a vibrant neighborhood filled with parks, boutiques, and cafes. While on the higher end of prices for a budget traveler, we were still able to grab some churros for less than a dollar.

Condesa and Roma are great areas to:

  • Walk dogs
  • Visit art galleries
  • Explore city parks
  • Enjoy cafe culture
  • Participate in pick-up games of soccer – or fútbol
  • Visit bars and nightclubs

While geared towards a younger more affluent crowd, there is still much to offer for everyone. We particularly enjoyed wandering through Avenida Amsterdam.

Dogs In Condesa

*The September 19, 2017 earthquake did extensive damage to this region in particular. The neighborhood is still in recovery, so some businesses may operate different hours or locations.


Coyoacan is a rather large delegacion in the southwest region of Mexico City. Considered the counter-culture center, there is a lot to offer. The biggest attractions speak to the counter-culture environment:

Outside of museums, Coyoacan also contains many quiet residential neighborhoods. We didn’t make it there on our visit so it’ll be at the top of the list for the next time.


Nuns at Chapultepec Castle

Another must-see delegacion, Chapultepec is Mexico City’s largest park. It is huge, and warrants multiple visits. For those on time constraints, it still deserves at least a day visit. There are numerous activities including:

  • Chapultepec Castle – The only castle in the Americas to have ever housed European royalty, it rises on Grasshopper hill. Open to the public, the castle provides excellent views of the surrounding park and a glimpse into Mexico’s rich colonial past.
  • National Anthropological Museum – The museum gives an amazing look at Mexico’s past. From paleolithic, to the Aztecs, to modern Mexico. If you have any interest in Mexico’s history, this is the place to see.
  • Museum of Modern Art – An extension of the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the museum has permanent exhibitions of most prominent Mexican artists including Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
  • Lago de Chapultepec – This is actually two lakes in the center of the park. It is a great place to rest and relax, or to grab a snack or meal. For those inclined, you can take a paddle boat out on the lake. There are also many souvenirs at great prices from friendly vendors.
  • La Feria Chapultepec Mágico – For those with more time on their hands, you can enjoy an amusement park. Ride rollercoasters and get your thrill fix here.

Altar a la Patria

While pressed for time, we only got one day here. However, we intend to explore more of the park on future visits. There is so much to see and do here aside from what is mentioned above.

Del Valle / Narvarte / Napoles

Important neighborhoods in Mexico city, these delegaciones offer middle-class residential accommodation. Atop that, numerous shopping centers and restaurants abound. For tourists, there are many historical sites and churches such as:

While prices in these areas are higher than budget travel, you can still experience them without breaking the bank.

Juarez / Rosa

The only place in Mexico City that never truly sleeps, you can always find something to do here. Juarez and Rosa offers excellent examples of architecture as well as a vibrant food scene for all budgets.

Those looking for cultural fusions can find it here. There is a large Korean population as well as many expats. It is also the meeting place for the gay community in Mexico City.



Comprised of three boroughs south of Mexico City, Tlalpan rarely registers for tourists and travelers. It is not accessed via public transportation, so you have to make a point to get there. However, it’s untouched nature provides for a very intimate and authentic experience of Mexico City. Prices are also lower here, which can be great for slow travelers or budget travelers.


Considered the Venice of Mexico, Xochimilco is dominated by Aztec canals. The main attraction is the embarcadero, which is a large floating market. Hire a boat and wander through the canals. You can purchase everything from food to souvenirs here.


Briana atop the Pyramid of the Moon looking towards the Pyramid of the Sun

While technically outside of Mexico City, Teotihuacan is a city northeast of Mexico City. It is home to the pyramids of Teotihuacan and is an absolute must-see while in Mexico City. Teotihuacan was a highlight of our visit.

It is accessible via public transportation, but can also be easily reached by taxi or Uber.

Budget Travel Mexico City: Transportation

Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City

Despite it’s immense size, Mexico City is actually quite easy to get around. While we go into how to navigate the city here, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Mexico City is pretty walkable. While some of the neighborhoods should be avoided walking through – in most areas, distance is the main deterrent from walking everywhere.
  • There is a well-developed metro system. Most of the city can be accessed via the Metro.
  • Ecobici offers bike-share. For those who want avoid the metro, but go faster than walking, the widely offered bike sharing program can get you where you want.
  • Uber is convenient. Due to various circumstances, Uber was our go-to after walking. Incredibly cheap, fast, and convenient – it gets you where you need to go.

Budget Travel Mexico City: Food

Mexican food in Chapultec Park

Mexico City is a culinary delight. Check out what we ate while we visited. However, there’s plenty to keep in mind.

  • Tacos al Pastor are a staple here. If you like tacos, grab one from any street stall. The tacos bear Arab influence from the Spanish colonizers – similar to shwarma.
  • Corn is king. Whether by tortilla, elote, hominy, salsa, or plain – corn is the food. Corn is ubiquitous in Mexican cuisine and you can expect to find it incorporated in most dishes.
  • Relish the pepper. Hot peppers originated from Mexico, and are deeply ingrained in the culture. From Jalapeño to Habanero, there is a wide selection of heat to enjoy.
  • Light on the cheese. Mexico is often synonymous with food slathered in cheese. Mexico City backs this off a bit. While cheese still features, it not quite as prominent as elsewhere.
  • Take in the fusion. Mexico City offers a wide scene of food fusions. From Korean to Italian to Lebanese, you’ll find a mix of flavors from around the world – with a Mexican perspective.
  • Vegetarians are safe. While by no means a vegetarian city, those wishing to avoid meat still have options. Local establishments often carry mushroom dishes, and restaurants specializing in vegan/vegetarian do exist.

Budget Travel Mexico City: Accommodation

As budget travelers, we can’t highly recommend Airbnb. We cover everything you need to know about the service here. However, we understand that sometimes, it just isn’t the right fit – you want a different experience, or your needs just aren’t met.

We spent our time in an Airbnb in Centro Historico and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. However, below you’ll find just a few of the top rated accommodations, in a variety of price ranges to suit your needs.

  • Hotel Catedral – Just a block from Zocalo, the hotel overlooks the Metropolitan Cathedral and is in the center of Mexico City. Starting at ~$40/night.
  • Downtown Mexico and Downtown Beds – Located in Centro Historico, this hotel/hostel offers high-end chic accommodation. However, it also provides dorms for backpackers at $10/night.
  • Casa de los Amigos – A non-profit organization, here you can get a dorm for $5/night or a private double for $20/night. A communal kitchen and library allows for travelers to go about their business and stay on budget. Great for those interested in volunteer projects.


Monumento de la Revolucion

For those unfamiliar with Mexico outside of the beach, Mexico City offers very different weather. At 7,200 feet above sea level, the climate remains consistent throughout much of the year. The temperature will range between the 50s and upper 70s throughout the year depending upon cloud cover.

Rain occurs most heavily in the summer months, but can occur year-round. The rain usually brings a sudden drop in temperature. However, the temperatures can shoot back up when the sun emerges.

Because Mexico City is at higher altitude, be sure to wear sunscreen. Even on cooler days, the sun can give you a nasty sunburn. Remember you are still in the tropics.

Additional Tips

Of course, traveling through Mexico City – Cuidad de Mexico – warrants some tips and tricks. We have a few handy for you to make your travels just a bit easier:

  • Carry an umbrella with you. Rain can appear come quickly. While rarely heavy, or long, it’s nice to keep dry considering it will be rather cold. This is most relevant in the summer.
  • Brush up on Spanish. If you can’t speak Spanish, you may have a hard time. While English is spoken a little in the city-center, you will still encounter few who can speak it. Even rough, broken Spanish can go a long way – and the locals will appreciate the attempt.


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