Originally from Houston, Tx, Selena is currently teaching English in Rabat, Morocco.
To start off, I didn’t quite go on a low-budget trip since I was celebrating my college graduation but I didn’t go crazy spending money either. It’s definitely possible to visit Mexico with a smaller budget than mine but this plan can offer some guidelines for those who are interested in spending less money on transportation and lodging but still want to do some splurging when visiting tourist attractions and restaurants.
I’m sure you have all heard about the violence in Mexico and it probably freaks you out a bit. It also made my family very nervous so I decided to invite a friend on the trip with me. Even though I love traveling by myself and I would have been fine with going to Mexico by myself, I wanted to give my family some comfort. Truth be told, after all the warnings they gave me, I also started to get nervous. In the end, I loved having a companion while on vacation because it definitely gave me a sense of security but I would still recommend visiting Mexico on your own or with a friend! As with any country, always be cautious and pay attention to your surroundings. There are neighborhoods you shouldn’t go into by yourself or at night but I don’t think you should let the media stop you from enjoying the beauty that is Mexico.
Since I live in Houston, it was easier for me to take a bus to Monterrey. I chose Monterrey because I wanted to visit family members. If you want to fly from the US to Mexico City, that’s definitely a good idea. Taking the bus from Houston to Monterrey saved me about $100 but the bus ride took about 12 hours (including the time it took to go through immigration) and I was pretty exhausted by the time we arrived with my family. I took the bus Thursday night and arrived in Monterrey on Friday afternoon. After spending a couple of days with my family, I flew to Mexico City with VivaAerobus. This is a budget airline that flies to a ton of Mexican cities. If you can be a better traveler than me and only use a carry on and personal item, then the flight can come out to a really cheap price. Since I still haven’t mastered the light traveler method, I bought a flight ticket that already included a checked bag.
To get around in Mexico City, we used taxis, Uber, the subway, and we walked around a lot. We used ubers and taxis when we had to go somewhere that was a bit far away, like the Frida Kahlo museum. We preferred walking when we weren’t too tired and the walking distance wasn’t more than 30-40 minutes. On one occasion we used the subway and it was incredibly crowded so we preferred walking.
Airbnb vs. Hostel vs. Hotel:
I did A LOT of research to find the cheapest and safest location. Hotels were definitely the priciest option. Hostels and airbnbs are much better options for a traveler on a budget. If you are traveling by yourself, I would say that a hostel is the better option since you can find a cheap bed and meet other travelers while you’re there. If you are traveling with someone else, I think airbnb is the better route. Since there were two of us, getting an airbnb was actually cheaper than a hostel. We chose a room a few minutes away from the Angel of Independence. We had heard the neighborhood was safe and full of life at night. Overall we really enjoyed staying in that area.
So what did we actually do?
Day 1 (Sunday):
We took a morning flight to Mexico City so we were exhausted when we arrived and our airbnb wasn’t ready yet. We googled the closest breakfast place and ended up at Bred & Co. I really enjoyed it but you could definitely find a cheaper place for breakfast if you aren’t as sleepy and hungry as we were.
While we waited for our airbnb we explored Paseo Reforma, the long street with stores and the Angel of Independence. Important note: Sundays in that neighborhood can be frustrating if you are in a car. We were there during a marathon so most of the streets were closed but I was told this happens often so keep that in mind if you’re thinking of getting to Mexico City on a Sunday. To waste some more time we decided to check out the Antara Polanco shopping center where you can find some fancy stores like Gucci. After that we were able to check into our airbnb.
After getting a few hours of rest we began exploring the historic center. We visited the Zocalo, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and we went to the top of the Latin American Tower. We had dinner at Cafe Tacuba which was a bit pricey but their special enchiladas are amazing!
We ended the day by visiting Plaza Garibaldi and the Tequila Museum. They have a lot of types of tequila and mezcal at the museum and we were able to taste a couple. I’d say it’s difficult to pick a favorite because they are both very different flavors.
Day 2 (Monday):
Important note! : A ton of museums close on Monday so plan your day carefully if you’re visiting Mexico City on a Monday.
We bought a pass for the Touribus which has four circuits. It took us to the Guadalupe Basilica which is incredibly beautiful. It’s a bit further away from the other places we wanted to visit so having the touribus was really helpful.
Then we took the touribus to Museo Soumaya, a museum full of Carlos Slim’s private art collection. Outside of the museum we ate quesadillas at a food stand. Since my family is from the north of Mexico, I didn’t know that quesadillas don’t automatically come with cheese in Mexico City!! So if you want cheese in your quesadilla make sure to ask for it!
We finished the day by walking through President Masaryk street where you can find very expensive stores and nice restaurants. We weren’t very hungry so we didn’t have dinner but we went to Calle Génova in the Zona Rosa where they have a few nice bars and restaurants.
Day 3 (Tuesday):
There are a few ways to get to Teotihuacán. You can book a tour or take public transportation. We had a friend with a car who drove us to the pyramids which made our lives much easier.
There are two pyramids you can climb. The pyramid of the Sun and the pyramid of the Moon. It can be a difficult climb if heights make you uncomfortable but I really liked that they have a rail for support.
There are a lot of restaurants in the area outside of the pyramids. I ate some sopes at Tlacualollan which has a nice view of both pyramids.
After resting for a bit we went for a walk in the historic center. There’s a store called Ay guey which has some really nice dresses and purses that are 100% made in Mexico. The prices are what you would typically find in the US but I really loved their stuff so I may have bought a couple of things. Next to the Palacio de Bella’s Artes there is the Alameda Plazawhere you can find clowns and street artists. We had such a great time watching a clown show that we didn’t realize we had been there for more than an hour. When the show was over we walked through Madero street to pick a restaurant. We ate at Terraza Batiz which offers a nice view if you’re only getting drinks but if you need an actual table, you don’t get much of a view.
Day 4 (Wednesday):
Our airbnb was very close to Chapultepec park so we walked there. First we stopped at Chapultepec Castle, which has been an imperial residence, military academy, presidential home, and now, a museum. Entrance is free if you have a college ID and this is the only place that actually accepted my Harvard ID. Then we visited the Chapultepec Zoo which has two pandas! Unfortunately the pandas weren’t close enough to the glass for nice pictures but I was just happy to see a panda for the first time. The zoo is free but the snakes and butterfly exhibits have an entrance fee. Outside of the zoo there’s an area with small food stands. They also sell fruit with Tajín.
After that, we took a taxi to the Templo Mayor and we went back to the plaza next to the Palacio de Bellas Artes and did some people watching. We really loved that plaza and just enjoyed being able to relax. We finished the day by having dinner at an Italian restaurant near the plaza.
Day 5 (Thursday):
On our last day in the city we visited the Frida Kahlo museum. We were there before the museum opened and there was already a short line forming. Luckily we didn’t have to wait for too long before getting in but I did notice the line was significantly longer when we were leaving. You’re not allowed to take pictures inside the museum unless you pay an extra fee. I loved seeing where Frida and Diego lived but my favorite part of the exhibit was seeing the new items that were found in locked rooms that were recently opened.
Then we made a quick stop at the UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) to take pictures of the library. Then we took the metro to the historic center and had some great tacos de canasta (basket tacos).
After lunch we went to the Palacio de la autonomía to check out their exhibit on fear. It’s a small exhibit but it was really interesting to learn about the different forms of fear and how they’ve developed throughout history. If you have your receipt from the Templo Mayor, you can get 2×1 at the Palacio de la autonomía.
At the end of the day we went to Teatro Aldama to watch the play Hoy no me puedo levantar with Danna Paola. It was a great play! I definitely recommend checking it out if you’re in the city.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Mexico City and I was able to do all of the things that I’d planned. I was exhausted by the end of the week but ready to move on to my next city.