Below are my notes for visiting Mexico. These travel tips, such as the best time to visit Mexico are obtained from a variety of sources including some of the following: my first hand observations, personal conversations, magazines, newspapers, websites, books and so forth. Whenever I hear something that interests me about Mexico, I jot it down here. Hope this comes in handy.
Best Time to Visit Mexico
Short Answer: Mexico is big. Avoid generally in the June through August timeframe.
Longer Answer: For the Yucatan / Riviera Maya, visit in November for shoulder-season deals with improving weather. December into April is high season with nice weather, and little rain but high levels of crowds—especially during Spring Break which is scattered mostly around March. May is doable but humidity, temperatures and rain are rising throughout the month. June through August is when the humidity and temperatures are at their highest and September and October is when thunderstorms and rain are at their peak.
That said, if you are looking for whale sharks, you will want to visit June through September off the Yucatan peninsula – whether up toward Holbox or down on the Riviera Maya. December to April would be when humpbacks show up to a place like Holbox.
The best time to visit Mexico City is March and April when the weather is quite nice. Late October and early November good. November through February can be quite chilly at night but nice during the day. Thus really, the only time that isn’t recommended the rainy and/or hot summer/fall (sometime in May to early October) although rain generally comes through in the afternoon.
Baja California is good December through April for dry, comfortable weather. Visit in June for deals.
Miscellaneous Travel Tips for Mexico
My informal notes on visiting Mexico:
I think a great region to check out is the Oaxaca region. For beach, years ago I heard good things about a small town called Sayulita north of Puerto Vallarta. It’s probably over-run by now but if you are over on the west coast, might want to look into it. Note: yes, Sayulita is now on the cruiseship radar so instead checkout Yelapa, 45 minutes by boat south of Puerto Vallarta
Places in Yucatan that aren’t touristy – possible good spots: Campeche, Valladolid, Merida
If you like beer-based cocktails, try a michelada
Currency in Mexico is MXN but will often be noted with the $ sign. At the time of these notes, 10 Mexican Pesos (MXN) were about .55 USD. So 100 MXN is $5.50. A quick conversion, move the decimal left 2 digits and round up to the nearest whole number and multiple by 5. In this manner, 750 MXN becomes 7.50 and rounds up to 8, multiply times 5 and thus becomes $40 (versus the real rate of $41 at the time of this writing).
Power plugs in Mexico – US Plugs (Type A/B).
Most locals don’t drink the water. However, in Mexico City, things are slowly changing.
Ideas for Gifts & Things to Buy in Mexico
- Mezcal & Tequila come from the south. Raicilla, a sweeter, stronger, perhaps mind-altering mezcal. Xtabentun, an anise, fermented honey and rum liquor. Flavored rums. Mexican Wine.
- Coffee & Chocolate (there is the more prolific “Mexican Chocolate” which is grainy chocolate and spices) but try to hunt down chocolate made from the Criollo cacao family. Great coffee from Guerrero can be found in Mexico City at Cafe Passmar in the Mercado Lazaro Cardenas.
- For a bartender, they might like to play with a molinillo which is a wooden frothing whisk. There are also pretty nifty hand carved wooden cooking utensils I came across
- Roughly halfway between Mexico City and Acapulco lies Taxco which is a town known for its silver.
- Pottery, Leather (Valladolid in the Yucatan)
- Wool Textiles (Oaxaca)
Mango season is February to July.
A lot of people afraid of Mexico City due to overactive fear–based media. Don’t worry about it.
There are notes that there is free WiFi in the airport. This, as of April 2016, didn’t appear to be true. I tried the whole airport and found nothing free.
Getting to downtown Mexico City from the Airport (I’d approximate an hour to be safe):
Least Hassle: Prebook Ahead for a car
Less Hassle: Look for the desks scattered about where you can prepay for a taxi before leaving the airport. Ask for a small car as they may try to put you in the most expensive car. Should be less than 250MXN.
Least Expensive: You have two options: (1) If you have luggage (2) If you are traveling light.
In circumstance (1) you look for the Metrobus sign (which almost looks like an M3). Head through that exit (Exit 3 I believe), pass the taxis heading straight and you’ll see a vending machine and sign for the Metrobus Line 4 (it serves Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 – my directions are for Terminal 2 but Terminal 1 should be nearly the same instructions, just it picks up between Doors 6 and 7). When I used the machine, it was only accepting coins. It returns no change either. So you might want to make a purchase and get change in coins inside the airport. It costed 10 MXN for the card and 30 MXN for the fare although you can put more onto the card I would surmise. This is a decent option if you are staying in the historical center or downtown area. I don’t like this option if you are staying in the Condesa area. Further, while people talk about this bus having dedicated lanes, it only does for pieces of the journey. Overall it seemed like quite a long journey.
My more recommended option (IF YOU DON’T HAVE MUCH LUGAGGE) is to take the subway. From Terminal 2, leave from Exit 1, walk straight until you are off the airport property, take a left hand turn and walk along the street and you will run into the Pantitlan metro station. To get to Condesa area, take the 9 Train and that should do it. I wouldn’t do this late at night and I wouldn’t do this if you scare easily or can’t hold your own. The other option is you can take a shuttle to Terminal 1 and then connect to the Metro (Terminal Area) from there.
Also, DO NOT take the metro heading into Mexico City in the rush hour morning and DO NOT take the metro heading towards the airport in the rush hour evening. It reminds me of the chaos in Manila. It is mobs of people and chaos. If you have no bags and all the time in the world, you can attempt it. If you have even small baggage you will regret it.
Metro fare as of Spring 2016 is 5 MXN. A ticket can be purchased. It is inserted in the machine and you are done. You don’t receive the ticket back to exit.
When walking, don’t blindly trust pedestrian signals as with any city. Mexico City drivers get an unfair rap – they drive normally for a city. Also, you can cross streets against the signal as that is quite common.
Many/all museums are closed on Mondays
The area I think is best to stay in, for most, would be somewhere in the vicinity of Condesa which could more specifically be called Zona Rosa, Roma Norte,
Condesa, or Hipodromo. Also San Miguel Chapultepec.
I never give suggestions on where to eat generally and to do so in Mexico City is a bit ridiculous because it is so easy to find amazing looking spots while wandering aimlessly. To hone in on a “suggested” place at the expense of your own find is a little bit foolhardy. Yet, with that said…
Places to Possibly Eat:
El Parnita: Upscale Casual Mexican, open at 1330, busy by 2 or 3. Good, easy place to eat. (Roma Norte)
Fonda Mayora: Mexican (Hipodromo)
El Tizoncito Tamaulipas: Tacos (Condesa)
Tacos Hola: Tacos. I found this place just by wandering and it looked and smelled good. This is the whole point of travel; only later to find out it’s loved by the bloggers and such. (Hipodromo)
Taqueria El Greco: Tacos (Hipodromo)
La Barraca Valenciana: Tortas (Del Carmen)
Contramar: upscale seafood (Roma Norte)
Quintonil: upscale local-sourced Mexican classics (Polanco)
Rosetta: upscale Italo-Mexican with fine wine (Roma Norte)
Pujol: one of the long-standing culinary institutions (Polanco)
(Feeling adventurous visit Puebla and eat some mole pablano. 2 hours from Mexico City)
Place to Drink:
Cafe Passmar: excellent coffee (Colonia del Valle)
La Clandestina: Mezcal Bar. Cool ambience after dark, better if you are with friends as the bar staff is too busy to socialize much with you. (Condesa)
Felina_: Cocktail Bar (Hipodromo)
Baltra Bar: Cocktail Bar. Nice cozy bar with social bar service. Well-crafted cocktails with a nice seed/nut bar snack served. (Condesa)
Places to Shop (some of these are going to be over-priced but sometimes you don’t have time to curate things on your own. The Mercado de Medellin is legit, the others are more fraught to be for yuppies):
Mercado de Medellin: Large Latin American/Caribbean food/produce market. Also has some cool gifts in here if you wander. (Roma)
Goodbye Folk: Vintage boutique. Somewhat stuff. No greeting upon entry and very small. However, cool selection of shoes and some interesting clothes for men & woman. (Roma Norte)
David Pompa: Upscale furniture, lighting and tiles made in Mexico. Check for the building out back for accessories, etc. Otherwise this is somewhat a high price opertion (and not sure how many people are looking to carry lamps home). If you like this kind of high-priced froof-ware, also check out Anatole 13 (Roma Norte)
Acento Culinaria: food, oils, wines, soaps (Polanco)
Museo Universitario Arte Contemporaneo: local designers in the gift shop (DF)
Galeria Mexicana de Diseno: Modern Mexican Design (Polanco)
Tienda Museo de Arte Popular: Gift store at the Folk Art Museum (DF & Polanco & Airport).
Valle de Guadalupe: (Mostly Red) Wine Region 90 minutes drive from California. Stop at Monte Xanic and try the Gran Ricardo. Good restaurants in area.
Puerto Nuevo: Lobster Village of Baja – stop for a meal.