Culture Shock | 7 Things to Know Before Traveling to Mexico City

When people travel to Mexico, Mexico City is often not first on the list of places to visit, usually taking backstage to the iconic beach resorts in Cancun or Puerto Vallarta. But Mexico City has quickly turned into one of the most thriving, cosmopolitan cities in South America. Whether you go for the museums, art, history or just the awesome food, Mexico City is the place to be. Before you head out, here are 7 things to know before traveling to Mexico’s hipster capital.

Photo by Eneas De Troya

Photo by Eneas De Troya

Lunch is at 3.

Though you can snack at all hours if you go to a local cantina, you aren’t going to find a satisfying meal at noon. Lunchtime is typically around 3pm and dinner is around 8 or 9. Avoid hanger and pack snacks.


Sundays are for walking.

One of Mexico City’s main streets, Reforma, closes down to vehicular traffic on Sundays to make space for people to walk, bike, jog and hang out along the historical promenade. Reforma is full of monuments, public art and awesome music, so don’t miss your chance to experience some real Mexico City culture.

Photo by William Neuheisel

Photo by William Neuheisel.

The busses are actually awesome.

Mexico has an amazing public transportation system between Mexico City and old cities and towns, making day trips from the capital particularly easy. That being said, you have no excuse not to travel to the Pyramids at Teotihuacan, the church at Cholula and the city of Cuernavaca.

Photo: Eddie Milfort

Photo: Eddie Milfort.

Drink more than margaritas.

Yes, margaritas are delicious, but don’t set yourself short by limiting your drinks to what you know! Try a banderita, which consists of a shot of tequila, a shot of lime juice and a shot of spicy tomato juice, making a delicious shooter that looks like the Mexican flag.

Photo: Javier Doren

Photo: Javier Doren

You can’t ACTUALLY get every drug over the counter.

It’s true: Viagra is considered an over the counter drug in Mexico, but you’re not going to get the pharmacist to sell you Vicodin, codeine-laced cough syrup or Vyvanse without some sort of documentation…you know, unless you ask really nicely (with cash in hand).

Photo: Altnav

Photo: Altnav.

Know your ice.

We all know that it’s unsafe to drink the water or eat the ice in Mexico, but there’s no reason to be paranoid while you’re there. Most tourist-laden restaurants and resorts serve purified ice, so it’s totally safe to drink your cocktail with ease. A quick way to tell if it’s purified is if the ice is a cylinder shape with a hole in the middle.

Photo: William Beautler

Photo: William Beautler.

The dollar sign is also the sign for a peso.

Don’t get confused when you see a sandwich that costs $50 bucks, or a bus ticket that charges a $30 dollar fee. Even though it’s a dollar sign, it’s still in pesos. The exchange rate is around 17 pesos to 1 dollar, so that $50 dollar sandwich is actually $2.75. Eat all the things, and also, take that into consideration when bartering for goods.