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Cover Photo Credit: Manuel Gonzalez
Guest Writer: Stephanie Maisonneuve
Mexico gets a bad rep. It’s not unusual to read about gang activity and violence. So it’s no surprise female solo travelers may choose to pass it up. But there’s another side of Mexico. A side where black expats and travelers are exploring and creating communities outside of the United States. And they feel safe. If you’re looking to visit Mexico, don’t just hop over to Cancun or Playa Del Carmen, head over to Mexico City. Hands down one of my favorite destination. It is time to give this city the credit it deserves. Mexico City boasts some of the world’s best museums, mezcal, tacos, and ancient ruins.
Vamonos as I show you how this black girl traveled solo to Mexico City, what to pack, how to get around, where to stay, what to do, and what to expect from the locals!
Before we go, let’s pack. Mexico City is at a higher altitude than most cities so you may experience altitude sickness. It actually hit me the first day I arrived. I got a massive headache and just felt tired and unable to do much. The cure? Rest, drink lots of fluid and pack some aspirin or ibuprofen. Bring your favorite hat if you’re going to be climbing the Pyramid of the Sun, and protect your skin during the sunny days with the Black Travel Box Body Balm (it always comes through). In addition, pack comfortable sneakers and sandals for all the walking you’re going to do.
You’ll arrive at Benito Juárez International Airport where you can take a taxi for about 250 Mexican Pesos. Be prepared to haggle as the first taxi driver quoted me 300 pesos and the second told me 350. In some circles even 250 Mexican Pesos to get to the city center and surrounding neighborhoods is a bit much; unfortunately, you get got sometimes when you travel. Mexico also has a great metro system for about 5 Mexican pesos. However, it is very crowded in the mornings and evenings, so brace yourself. Hands down your best option in Mexico City is Uber. The best Uber experienced I’ve ever had was in Mexico City and the rides were very cheap. An hour ride for $12? Can’t beat that.
Haggling tip: If you are at a destination where haggling is the way of life (or in the case of unmetered taxi), before settling on a price, request a quote from 3 different people. You may get 3 separate quotes as was my case, or 2 different rates or even the same prices. Either way, it helps you gauge what you could get away with paying. Of course, choose the lowest.
Cool Fact: Mexico City has a pink bus for women and children only and also pink taxis driven by women. There’s even a women-only car in the metro. They were created to ensure the safe transport of women.
Aight, cool! Let’s proceed. I stayed in a neighborhood called Condesa, away from the hustle and bustle of Centro (city center). You’re going to enjoy the many different neighborhoods in Mexico. They all have something unique to offer. Condesa is lined with lush greenery, plenty of delicious restaurants, and fantastic parks. There are many Airbnbs in Condesa to choose from, and all at affordable prices. Depending on when you go, you can find places for as low as $20 per night. There are also hostels if you want to go that route and one of my favs is Hostel Home. Another popular neighborhood is Polanco. A high-end area with lots of nice restaurants and cafes. Airbnbs there start at around $25 per night. If you prefer Centro, you’ll also find nice Airbnbs for about $30 a night and plenty of hotels and hostels. My favorite hotel is Hotel Geneve, an upscale hotel built in 1902. I love the architect, and it’s close to the Chapultepec Castle museum and airport. Price for a room starts around $70.
I was in Mexico City for a total of 5 days. Here are some of the highlights and must-dos.
My first full day I visited the Frida Kahlo Museum aka Casa Azul in Coyoacan. I didn’t buy tickets in advance and had to wait in a line. Don’t be like me, purchase your tickets online. If you are a lover of Frida this is a must and if you’re not, what’s wrong with you? My favorite parts of the museum were the garden filled with plants and trees and her beautiful dresses. It was very emotional learning about her life and relationship with Diego Rivera. Also, the urn with her ashes is there. Coyocan is also a nice area for a walk to enjoy the market lined streets, shop and grab some delicious street food.
The following day, I went to the floating gardens of Xochimilco. Without traffic, it was about 35 minutes from Condesa. I took an Uber there for about $12. Once there, I rented a trajineras (boat) for 400 pesos per hour for 2 hours. Once again, you’ll have to haggle. People selling food and mariachi bands will be floating around on trajineras as well. I bought and ate corn seasoned with lime and chili (yummy, yum yum) and had the mariachi band serenade me. If you haven’t figured it out yet, start practicing your haggling skills.
On my last day, I visited Teotihuacan Pyramids. After exploring Mexico City on my own, I decided to book an all-inclusive tour. The driver picked me up from my Airbnb apartment in a comfortable air-conditioned van. Along the way, we stopped at the Plaza De Las Tres Culturas and Basilica De Guadalupe. Places I probably would not have visited if I just took an Uber by myself, so I really enjoyed that. I climbed the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. I’ve always heard that it was a challenging climb, but I found it quite easy. Initially, it will hit you, and then you will feel the pain. However, there are areas to stop along the way and rest and take pictures. I took advantage of that, and before I knew it, I was at the top. Climb in an S-shape instead of straight on. The entire tour with transportation, food, entrance to the different ruins and stops along the way was 500 pesos ($25).
I had a great experience with the people there. The taxi drivers can be shady - but that’s everywhere especially when they refuse to turn their meters on. Hint: Do not get in a taxi without agreeing to a price or without a meter being turned on. But then again, we are using Uber, right? Right! I had one family ask me to take a picture with their daughter because she was mesmerized with all my melanin (translation – she had never seen a black person in her life *insert side eye gif*) but anyways that was the extent of it. Other than that, the people were friendly, helpful, talkative, and wanted to know about Trump. Enter my “sorry about our president” t-shirt.
Don’t sleep on Mexico City. You’re going to have a blast. You’ll get to eat amazing tacos, sip (in Mexico City we do not take shots) mezcal, watch a luche libre, take in the amazing architect in Zocola, and still return with money in your pocket. What else could you ask for?
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