Mexico City has one of the cheapest public transport systems in the world. The metro is pretty expansive and thse far out locations are easily reachable thanks to the excellent bus and overground light train systems.
Metro: Open Monday to Friday 5am to midnight, Saturday 6am to midnight, and Sunday 7am to midnight and costing only 5 pesos a ride. As you enter the station, buy a boleto (ticket) at the glass taquilla (ticket booth). Insert your ticket into the slot at the turnstile and pass through.
Buses: Crowding is common during peak hours. The cost is 4 pesos – although the driver usually has change, try to have exact fare or at least a few coins when you board
Where to stay
Cheapest Hostel: Massiosare El Hostel (MX$140 a night for a dorm on both weekdays and weekends)
Best Hostel: Mundo Joven Catherdral (MX$215 a night for a dorm bed on both weekdays and weekends)
This was the first hostel we travelled to in Latin America and turned out to be one of our favourites. Located on the Zocalo, you can’t get much more central. The rooms are a little sparse but the common areas make up for it.
We had a blast here, making friends that I am still in contact with thanks to the hostel’s packed social events schedule (backpackers would come from other hostels just to hang out here as the atmosphere was friendlier). The staff are friendly and willing to take you out on the town to sample the local night life if you fancy a local experience. Although this may be a party hostel, rooms are away from the bar so a good nights sleep is guaranteed.
• Large, spacious lockers in each room
• 24-hour reception/security/key card access
• Rooftop terrace bar and downstairs restaurant
• Large, well equipped kitchen
• Computer terminals on the reception mezzanine
• Elevator/wheelchair accessible
• Fast Wi-Fi throughout
• Showers/bathrooms are plentiful
• Free and delicious breakfast
• Free walking tours of the historic centre or various historical attractions.
• In house travel agency/tourist information for booking group tours to Teotihuacan and lucha libre matches.
• Last but definitely not least: Free tequila vouchers for guests
Most backpackers will focus their time in Mexico City around the Zocalo but it’s well worth hopping on the metro to sample a few other neighbourhoods and get a real feel for the city.
Historic centre: Home to some of the best hostels and the majority of the cities top sights. The main square (Zocalo) is a great starting point to spend a day wandering between the top attractions or to start a walking tour.
Polanco – Located by Chapultepec Park, this affluent neighbourhood is considered Mexico City’s answer to Rodeo Drive.
Coyoacán – The city’s student and hipster hub. The fact that Diego and Frida chose to call this place home should say it all – the home of artists and writers, the cobbled squares retain a lot of colonial charm.
Roma Norte – If you find Coyoacán a little too passé, head over to Roma Norte where you will find grafitti inked streets, bars, cafes and fashionable shops.
Zona Rosa – The city’s party hub. It prides itself on being ‘gay friendly, party friendly, and tourist friendly’. Not to mention the vibrant Korean community here means that good food is never far away.
Free things to do
As always, I highly recommend taking a free walking tour of the city centre on your first couple of days in the City to get your bearings and find helpful information about the area/ culture/ attractions. Estacion Mexico host ‘pay what you want’ tours but we had a fantastic walk with the free tour put on by Hostel Mundo Joven Cathedral.
• Wander the Zocalo, the historical and geographical heart of the city. It is ranked along side Moscow’s Red Square and Beijing’s Tienanmen Square as one of the world’s largest city squares. on any day of the week you will find buskers and market sellers trading in jewellery and gifts. If you’re lucky you may even catch a show of people in traditional Aztec outfits.
• Hang around the square or Alameda Park beside the Palacio de Bellas Artes and wonder at its architectural majesty. Inside you will find one of Diego Rivera’s most famous works.
• Spend a lazy afternoon strolling around Chapultepec Park. It is one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere, measuring in total just over 686 hectares (1,695 acres) and contains monuments, boating lakes, the stunning Chapultepec castle and Mexico City’s best museum – The National Museum of Anthropology (open 9am-7pm daily/ MX$65 entrance).
• A short walk from the Palacio de Bellas Artes is Plaza Garibaldi where you can sit and watch mariachi bands perform while they are waiting to be hired for fiestas.
• Mexico City Cathedral is located on the Zocalo and is free to enter. It was built from the ruins of Templo Mayor (MX$57 entry) which is also on the Zocalo.
• Also on the main square is the Palacio Nacional which is worth a visit just to see the Diego Rivera murals inside. Entrance is free but be sure to bring a photo ID or passport
• A post office may not seem like the best attraction but have a look inside the Palacio de Correos de Mexico (Postal Palace of Mexico City), one of the most ornate interiors in the city.
• Climb to the top of Monumento a la Revolución to get incredible views of the city
• The best view of the city can be seen from the top of Torre Latinoamericana
• Teotihuacan was possibly my highlight of our time in Mexico City. The Temple of the Sun is the largest ancient pyramid outside of Egypt but the Temple of the Moon and the Palace of Quetzacoatl are equally impressive. See how to get there.
• Head to Coyoacán to take in Museo Frida Kalo (MX$140/MX$40 or students) and Museo Casa De Leon Trotsky (MX$40/MX$20 for students).
• Head over to Xochimilco on a weekend to sample the fiesta atmosphere, boat down the canals on a colourful gondola while listening to mariachi musicians. See how to visit Xochimilco
• Nothing says Mexico quite like lucha libre. you can see this over at Arena México for MX$85. See how to get there.
Where to Eat
The city has a vibrant culinary scene but if you’re on a budget, your best bet is the street food. You can eat well for a few £ a day but although this is good for your wallet, it may not be great for your stomach (trust us, we know!).
El Huequito: Tacos al pastor are the food that most people assosiate with Chilango (Mexico City) and are available everywhere for as little as 50p for 5. However, for the best tacos in town head to this place on Ayuntamiento 21.
Tortas Been: The guide on our walking tour swore by this place, insisting it’s the best sandwich in Mexico City. It’s located just a few blocks east of the Zocalo inside the pasaje at República del Salvador 152.
Los Parados: I ate here more times than I’d like to think. On corner of Baja California and Colonia Roma, it’s one of the best places for tacos and the burgers are amazing.