I’ve been a bit missing-in-action while I moved from LA to CDMX and also adjusted and settled into my new city (I was also gone for a week traveling with a friend from Arizona to Nayarit and Jalisco). But, I’m back!!! 😀
I arrived in CDMX on October 1. So, it hasn’t been quite one month yet–more like 25 days. In this entry, I want to tell you about what I’ve observed so far during the last three or so weeks. I’ve been pleasantly surprised, mostly, and have met some locals who’ve filled in some knowledge gaps so that’s been great. There are a few things I’ve observed that I want to tell you about so that if you come to Mexico City, you avoid small inconveniences.
First of all, the transition has been quite smooth. I found a longer-term room rental via an Expat group on Facebook. A very nice young couple (he is Mexican from CDMX originally and she’s from Montreal) rented me a room in a three-bedroom apartment whereby the other two rooms are rented via Airbnb. I went a bit cheap here (paying $550 a month for the room–which is cheap for Americans, but the cost of an apartment for Mexicans). I was a bit hesitant with the arrangement as I am the only long-term tenant (I thought) and the other two rooms had people coming and going all the time. Turns out there’s another long-term tenant, which has its positives (and not-so-positives) and only one room is rented to travelers via Airbnb. Also, all of the other folks have been either locals or from other LatAm countries–so there’s definitely some getting used to as it relates to different “styles” of living (noise and, at times, borrowing your food without asking being the primary difference). But these have been minor annoyances at most.
The reality is, the couple who rent out the rooms run a fairly tight ship (they’ve got two other properties they manage as well) and the people who’ve come through there have generally been respectful, clean and respect quite hours (most of the time 😉 ). I even made a new local friend from it—a local guy who just returned from Barcelona, after having completed his Masters program there. I used to work for one of the “Big 4” professional services firms and he happens to work for another. Interestingly enough, the guy who rented me the place is a tax attorney who works for a Big 4 firm as well. What are the chances?!
Anyway, the living arrangement has worked out to get me acclimated to the city and it has helped that the apartment was located outside of the “foreigner/expat zones” of Condesa, Roma Norte, Roma Sur and Polanco. This has allowed me to live like a local, explore areas I wouldn’t have otherwise had a chance to see and eat at local places I would have missed out on. Having said this, I’ve decided that for my last two months (starting Dec 1), I will move to foreigner-central to experience the buzz in that neighborhood and have all of the cool and hip cafes, parks, etc., at my doorstep. The damage? Double what I’m paying now 😦 Damn foreigners driving up the price! Whatever 🙄
Up until a week ago, I was completing an independent consulting project and was on a deadline so I didn’t have as much free time to explore as I do now. You’re definitely going to see an uptick on posts and pics from now forward! However, I did have time to walk around the city, take public transport and get to know new (local and affordable) places to eat, thanks to my new local friend.
A super awesome experience I had during my first couple of weeks was riding a double-decker bus on the new Metrobús line that runs on Reforma. Why? Because I used to live in London and when I was there, I used to pick the bust over the tube always!
Sitting on the second floor gave you a view of the city that was unique and it was a great way to start each morning on your way to work. Well, while I was in London (two years ago), I read that the Mexican government had signed a contract with the UK government to purchase 20 or so double-deckers. Two years later, they’ve been put into circulation on a newly created Metrobus line and because CDMX’s metrobus color is red (like London double-deckers), it’s surreal! I rode this bus and it’s literally identical to the London buses (interior colors and all)…I felt like I was back in London again!! 🇬🇧
One surprise? The rain! Wow, it rains hard and often here…and most of the rain comes during summer. It should be clearing by November, but as you can see from the picture above, it’s been wet. On the flip side, that’s the reason that despite being a city of 24 million people (one of the largest in the world), it has so many very green spaces. Here are some pics with the parks and tree-covered walkways in some of the neighborhoods where people jog, take walks or walk their dogs. I’ve fallen in love with all of this greenery! You can’t throw a rock without it landing in a park…seriously!
Just see for yourself…🤩
Okay, so not everything is rainbows and unicorns. I know a lot of folks who read blogs and watch YouTube videos when they are planning to travel or live in Mexico (or any other country for that matter) complain that they want to know the good, the bad and the ugly (I’m one of them). This way, expectations are managed and you also get important information to help you maximize your experience and avoid silly (or serious) issues.
Here they are to help you plan accordingly:
- Moctezuma’s Revenge: I’ve been sick three times in the month I’ve been here. I’d already gotten super sick in 2011 and was told once it happened to you, you wouldn’t get it again. FALSE. I have traveled to Mexico before moving here and never got sick. However, I think because I am actually “living” here and subject to local food and water much more than I would be if I were a tourist staying at a hotel, it’s just gotten me again and again. So, I’m trying to cook most of my meals and will usually eat out at larger restaurants (including Mexican chains locals have recommended: Casa de Toño, El Faraón and El Portón–all excellent!).
- Pollution: The local government here has done an exceptional job implementing new rules to target pollution reduction. However, given CDMX’s geographic location, the size of the city and the number of cars on the street, it is still an issue. No one understands this issue better than someone born and raised in L.A. where we have very similar issues and our geography makes it difficult to address this issue. It usually is not a big deal unless you’re walking the streets (especially large arteries like Insurgentes) everyday, like me. You will feel it.
- Public Transport: It’s cheap, fast, modern and reliable. I love it!!! Most public transport rides cost $5 – $6 pesos (roughly $0.25 USD). Note: do not take the older buses called “camiones” usually green or pink. These are really for locals only and a local here told me they are not regulated and are subject to crime from time to time. Transport you will want to use: Metro (underground); Metrobus (above-ground bus with dedicated lanes) and Uber. Some drivers may tell you about Cabify (a Chinese Uber copycat). Do not take it. A year or so ago, a Cabify driver in Puebla, Mexico abducted a girl, raped her and killed her. It made news everywhere here. It’s cheaper than Uber but you get what you pay for.
- General Safety: I haven’t had encountered any situations where I have felt unsafe thus far and I have traveled public transport extensively, I’ve walked the streets of the city on my own and I’ve taken Uber everywhere. However, here are some precautions, especially for single women.
- (1) If you take the Metro ($5 pesos) or Metrobus ($6 pesos), take the first two cars which are normally sectioned off for women. You’ll see them because there are pink indicators telling you the sections are only for women. This really only applied during peak time. During regular hours, you are safe to jump into any car. It’s just that it gets so full during peak, it’s best to use the female-only cars during those times (7a-10a and 5p-8p).
- (2) If you go out and you’re coming home after dark, take an Uber. I don’t walk alone at night and wouldn’t do that in most cities or countries, including European ones. Ubers are super safe, efficient and very affordable. I’ve gotten better Uber service here than in some cities in the US. My typical Uber ride around the city (15 min drive) is $2 USD. To get to the airport from the city center with only moderate traffic (35 min drive) is $5-$6. The only time you probably wouldn’t want to take an Uber is during rush-hour or if it’s raining. The traffic here during peak times is awful and people drive like maniacs. In that case, take the Metrobus instead which has dedicated lanes so it’s not subject to traffic hold-ups which is awesome!
- (3) If you’re in a group, it’s normally safe to walk short distances at night (10-15 min), especially if the area is well-lit. I don’t want to give you the impression that you have to travel by car with an armed guard by your side…far from that! This is an incredibly international and sophisticated city. I’ve traveled the world and have been to many “global” cities and have lived in four…trust me on this one!
- Tipping: You have to tip everyone for everything! I know. And I thought we over-tipped in L.A. 🤪 It is nuts here! The positive is that these are small amounts and usually don’t exceed $0.50 USD (or $10 pesos), with the exception of restaurants where tipping for locals is 10% but, sadly, if they can tell you’re a foreigner, they will expect 15%. Your call. You will need to tip the old folks who bag your groceries. You will pay $5 pesos ($0.25 USD) to use most bathrooms (the positive though is that they are always clean, fully stocked and well-maintained).
That’s it for now amigos! I’m having a great time exploring the city. I’m able to decompress and take some time for myself and I’m learning to live differently and take advantage of outdoor parks, taking walks and stopping to smell the roses. Not too shabby.