As I write this from the cafe at the trendy Hotel Carlota, watching locals pour in and out with their friends, ordering crafty lattes, while the neighborhood residents come in with earbuds on play, something is ever so evident — there's a different side to Mexico City.
Mexico City. Let me guess one of your first questions: Is it safe? The topic of safety is almost completely unavoidable when speaking about Mexico as travel warnings across the country have been set, time and time again. It pains me to have to address this topic, but I fear that the beauty and wonder of Mexico City could never be seen for what it is before unraveling a lot of the notions of safety.
I want to debunk a few of the myths behind Mexico City, and open up a conversation to a different experience to be had here. Many questions have come through, and after walking through the streets of Mexico City for a week, taking Uber, and having my camera out, I can say with confidence, I felt pretty darn safe.
Here's some insight:
+ For starters, you'll find on the US Government travel site that central Mexico City is one of the only districts that currently has no travel warning in effect for visiting tourists in all of Mexico. Yes the surrounding greater areas do, but there really should be no reason to be heading to these bordering areas. Mexico City itself on the contrary has no travel warning. (For good practice, always check the US Gov Travel site before travel)
+ No, holding an iPhone while walking through the streets will not set you apart as a tourist, but if anything make you look like a local. That was one of the first things I noticed — how many locals had their headphones in, walking around with cellphones out, texting, calling, gaming, you name it, just like one would in the States. With that said, of course, as one with any travel common sense, you should be aware of your surroundings, and your valuables (like passports) should be locked up in your safe as you would in any foreign country.
+ I took on average 5 Uber rides a day in Mexico City, making for an affordable way to get around, and a very safe way too. The drivers have been beyond kind, and often take care in opening our doors for us, having fresh water — something that stood out to me from the beginning. Given the madness that is the underground metro, I'd recommend avoiding it all together, it's not a place for tourists. A twenty-minute Uber in rush hour is usually no more then 5-7 USD — taxis/uber really should be allotted in your travel budget in Mexico City. You should know where you're headed as well, always having a destination. (Note: it is also recommended to not flag down a taxi, booking a taxi is best left to your hotel, or restaurant which any will kindly do.)
Bottom line: Traveling through Mexico City is easy, safe, and doable for tourists.
+ Did I feel safe? Yes. On almost every block there is an armed officer keeping watch, minding traffic, and reassuring safety. Not to mention the thousands of security cameras on every street. Mexico City didn't even make it on the World's 50 Most Dangerous Cities list — whereas Baltimore, Detroit, St. Louis, and New Orleans did to put it in perspective. I'd put more care into traveling to these domestic destinations.
To be clear, I'm not advocating for you to walk around late at night by yourself, with earbuds in, in an unknown neighborhood in Mexico City. I'd hope you wouldn't do that in your own city, let alone on the road. I hope all this helps dispel many of the myths surrounding safe travel in Mexico City.
Now, with that said...
Mexico City is beautiful. The people welcome you the same way you choose to welcome them. They open up to you, they make you feel like you're a part of their family. The food is incredibly exciting with some restaurants listed on the Worlds 50 Best list, showcasing the best in Mexican cuisine and arts. The city is alive with creative spaces like Mercado Roma, Museu Suomaya, and more. It's happening, and there's a reason the NY Times named it the number one place to visit in 2016. After the time there, I'm already planning the next time I can head back down, visit a few new places to dine, and indulge in the local arts.
Stay tuned for the full guide on Mexico City.