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Mexico City

Travel Guide North America Mexico Mexico City

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Introduction

sprawling Mexico City

sprawling Mexico City

© All Rights Reserved mexmango

Mexico City also called DF or just Mexico, is the capital of Mexico and is a huge metropolitan area with around 20 million people living within its boundaries, being one of the largest urban agglomerations in the world. Unfortunately, because of the fact that it is totally surrounded by mountains, it is one of the most polluted ones as well. It is located in the central mountainous parts of the country at a height of over 2,200 metres and this area is prone to some serious earthquakes, most recently in 2006. People have been living here since the early 14th century, when the Aztecs settled on an island in a lake that no longer exists. This has had the added benefit of making the city sink, similar to Venice.

That being said, Mexico City is an amazing place to visit and stay. It is truly the heart and centre of Mexico and a trip to Mexico is not complete without a few days here. The city is home to amazing museums, parks, music, art, bars, restaurants, old buildings and Lucha Libre (Mexican Wrestling). Today, many travellers start their trips here to the country. Although a bit overwhelming at first, Mexico City can seem very small even after a few days.

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Neighbourhoods

Mexico city is truly massive! This one of the largest cities in the world and after looking at a map it is easy to see why. Luckily most of the areas tourists are interested in are located in a few neighbourhoods that are easy to reach by the convenient metro system. Some neighbourhoods are littered with famous sites while some are just worth going to for a quick stop. Here is a list of the most popular neighbourhoods with tourists in Mexico City:

  • Historico Centro is also called the Zocalo area and is the original colonial city built on top of the Aztec city. It is also one of the best places to witness the sinking of Mexico City.
  • Zona Rosa may sound a little dodgy, but it is in fact one of the trendiest nightlife district and the gathering place of Mexico City's in-crowd. This lively district offers plenty of entertainment with its many shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs and is totally different from the historic centre.
  • Condesa is a centre of hip restaurants, high fashion and the more trendy Mexico City night life.
  • Roma is the home to the current art scene in Mexico City and has several galleries. There is also a bohemian flare to the area.
  • Bosque de Chapultepec is home to the massive Chapultepec Park which is home to several of Mexico's most famous museums.
  • Polanco is home to the upper class Mexico City elite. This is the place to go to find the finer things in life.
  • Xochimilco is home to the famous Mexico city canals.
  • San Angel is home to several famous sights like Frida Kahlo's home she shared with Diego Rivera.
  • Ciudad Universitaria is the location of the main university of Mexico.
  • Coyoacan is the location of Frida Kahlo's childhood home and where she died. It is also the location of Leon Trotsky's final home and resting place.
  • Cuicuilco.
  • Tlalpan.
  • Parque Nacional Desierto de los Leones.
  • Tlatelolco and Guadalupe.

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Sights and Activities

Zocalo

Zocalo

© All Rights Reserved Lavafalls

Historico Centro

The Historico Centro is also known as the Zocalo Area and is the original colonial city built on top of the destroyed Aztec Capital. This area of the city is home to many of the best buildings and shops. At night time it can get a bit shady. It is also the best place in Mexico City to see the effects of its sinking nature with many of the older buildings sagging deep into the ground.

  • Zocalo is one of the world's largest public squares and one of the largest public squares (240 x 240 metres). Although the official name is Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square), the square is most well-known under the name Zócalo. This name comes from the base that was once built here, and which should support a monument, however the monument was never built, and the base was removed as well at one point, but the name remained. It is home to a massive Mexican flag right in the middle of the square. Every morning and evening there is a ceremony to raise or lower the flag. Bordering the square you will find several monuments, including the Cathedral to the north, the National Palace to the east, the Federal District buildings to the south, the Old Portal de Mercaderes to the west, the Nacional Monte de Piedad building at the north-west corner.
  • The Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City (Catedral Y Sagrario Metropolitano) is the main cathedral of Mexico City, thus making it one of the most important cathedrals in all of Mexico. Remember to look through the glass flooring outside of the Cathedral to see the ancient Aztec city, even with a human skull still remaining there.
  • National Palace (Palacio Nacional) is the center of the government and is also home to some of the most impressive Deigo Rivera Murals.
  • Museo del Templo Mayor
  • Alameda square - The place has strong historic significance - it was once the market place of the Aztecs. In later times the Spaniards would carry out their executions here.
  • Plaza Garibaldi - This is the meeting place for mariachis, the famous sombrero-topped serenade-singing musicians. Definitely take a look, for a small fee they'll give you a personal serenade.

Chapultepec Park

Los Ninos Heroes

Los Ninos Heroes

© All Rights Reserved Lavafalls

  • National Anthropological Museum - The National Anthropological Museum (Museo Nacional de Antropologia) is a world-class museum situated around an amazing central courtyard. The museum was opened in 1910, the museum moved two times, before settling at the present day building at the Avenida Paseo de la Reforma in 1964. It has amazing collection featuring the ancient and present day cultures of Mexico, which is divided in the Archeology section and the Ethnography section. The Museum’s center piece is the sculpture of Tláloc, the Aztec god of water, which is placed over a fountain located next to Avenida Paseo de la Reforma. Off the Pink line (Line 1) at its own stop this is one of the most amazing parks in the country. The park itself is a great place to wander around when the weather is good. It is also home to many historic places and several world class museums.
  • Monument to Los Ninos Heroes (Monumento A Los Ninos Heroes) - Every city in Mexico has a street named after these six renowned martyrs. This massive six pillar monument stands at the main entrance to the park and is the spot were the six boys died. As the American Military approached Mexico City at the end of the Mexican-American War, the General at the Military Academy, at that time located in Chapultepec Castle, told all the cadets to flee. Six boys decided to stay and stand up to the approaching onslaught. The boys took rifles and one wrapped himself in a Mexican Flag and they were killed by the Americans.
  • Museum of Modern Art (Museo De Arte Moderno) is a nice small museum featuring Mexican and Latin American artists and has a wonderful sculpture garden. It also houses several world famous Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo paintings. Many of the galleries feature visiting exhibitions that are hit or miss. Closed on Mondays and Free on Sundays, Entrance 30 pesos.
  • Museum of Rufino Tamayo (Museo Rufino Tamayo) was orignally built to house and protect the works of the renowned artist Rufino Tamyo. Although today it has been expanded to include modern art from all over the world. Closed on Mondays, free on Sundays.
  • Museum of National History (Museo Nacional De Historia) is located in Chapultepec Castle, which used to be the Mexican military academy.
  • Museum of Technology (Museo Tecnologico De La Comision Federal De Electricdad).
  • Papalote Museo Del Nino.
  • Museum of Natural History (Museo De Histroia Natural).

Coyoacán

Located off the Green Line (Line 3) stop of Viveros, Coyoacán is home to many famous houses and the art scene of Mexico City.

  • Frida Kahlo Museum (Museo Frida Kahlo) is a wonderful museum located in Frida Kahlo's childhood home. There are many paintings to be seen here that belonged to her or her husband. 30 pesos entrance, closed on sundays. This ticket also includes entrance to another museum located a short taxi ride away.
  • Museum of Leon Trotsky Home (Museo Casa De Leon Trotsky) is the last house that Trotsky ever lived him. He and his wife moved here after they had fell out with Deigo Rivera. The museum features several of his personal belongings and Trotsky's ashes are located in a mausoleum. The room where he died is left exactly how it was when an ice pick was shoved through the back of his head. This happened after surviving another assassination attempt where over 200 rounds were shot into his bed. Closed Sundays. Entrance 30 pesos.

Outside the City

Teotihuacan, Street of the Dead

Teotihuacan, Street of the Dead

© All Rights Reserved Lavafalls

  • Teotihuacan is an amazing abandoned city with massive pyramids located just about an hour away from Mexico City. It was occupied between AD 150 to AD 600. Plan about half a day for a visit. The site was probably the birthplace of what is now Mexico City and was once the largest city of the Aztecs. The complex is dominated by two colossal pyramids, of which the Piramide del Sol is the highest (surpassed only by the Cheops in Egypt), but the Piramide de la Luna is the most beautiful. You can climb the Pyramid of the Sun to get a beautiful view across the city and the Pyramid of the Moon. It's gruelling though; at this elevation the climb is all the more strenuous. At the top you can look out over the temple of Quetzalcóatl, the Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Moon, the green hills in the background and huge, colourful butterflies fluttering around you.
  • Xochimilco is the famous canal area of Mexico City located in the neighborhood after its own name. There are many colourfull boats that can take you for a ride along the canals. Every boat is painted in bright colours and decorated with (plastic) flowers and usually has a female name. It is very popular for Mexican families to go here on a Sunday for a picnic. There are many little boats with people who sell food and boats with Mariachis who are happy to sing a song for you.
  • Basílica de Guadalupe is the church built on top of where the Virgin of Guadelupe appeared. It is also the location of the home to the Aztec god of female sexuality. There are actually two churches on the property. On the right side there is the old church and on the left side the much bigger new church. Underneath the basilica there is a travelator to see the most famous religious artefact in the church. And to avoid people standing in front of it for a long time, they have added a travelator so you pass by the artefact automatically. Definitely worth checking out. Above the Basilica you can walk around the park and enjoy the view over Mexico City.

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Events and Festivals

Day of the Dead

Although the Day of the Dead is also celebrated in many Latin American countries except Mexico (and also in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa), the Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is most intensily celebrated in Mexciowhere where it is equal to a National Holiday. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place on November 1st and 2nd, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Although it is about the Dead, it is also a celebration where eating and partying both are common as well.

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Weather

Mexico City has fairly pleasant conditions all year round regarding temperatures, although June to September is rather wet. Temperatures average between 20 and 25 °C during the day, with the highest temperatures from March to June and the lowest from November to February. Nights are between 6 °C from December to February and 13 °C in June. March and April are good months for a visit, avoiding rain and cold nights.

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Getting There

By Plane

1. Mexico City International Airport (IATA: MEX, ICAO: MMMX) offers an extensive network of flights to many destinations in North America, the Caribbean, South America and Europe for example with the national carrier Mexicana. Other carriers include Aero California, and AeroMéxico but also European carriers like KLM, Iberia, Air France and Lufthansa fly here.

To/from the airport
The airport is served by the Terminal Aérea Metro station, located just outside the national terminal. There is also a Bus Terminal, which is served by various bus lines with routes to Cuernavaca, Puebla, Querétaro, Toluca, Pachuca, and Córdoba and many others. On the website you can find more about the bus services.

2. Lic. Adolfo López Mateos International Airport (TLC) is a smaller airport located in Toluca, just 30 minutes/40 kilometres from the financial district of Mexico City. It's gaining importance as it has the longest runway of all Mexican airports and has a growing number of flights with budget airlines, especially with Interjet and Volaris. There are international flights to/from Houston with Expressjet Airlines.

To/from the airport
Caminante Aeropuerto offers taxis and shuttle vans between the airport and downtown in just over half an hour if traffic is not at its heaviest.

By Bus

  • Terminal Tapo is the main bus station in Mexico city and it is massive. For most long-distance buses going south, east or west this is the bus station to use. This includes popular destinations such as Oaxaca, Cancun and Chiapas. This bus station can be reached by taking 2 subways lines, the dark green line (Line B) or the pink line (Line 1), to the Terminal Tapo stop.
  • Terminal Norte is the smaller bus station but also equally important. It mainly serves short and long distance buses to towns north of Mexico City. It is also the bus station that serves the pyramids of Teotihuacan. It can be reached by taking either the yellow subway line (Line 5) or by taking the red subway line (Line 6) to the Terminal Norte stop. It is also possible to take a cable car from the Zocalo Area off Eje Central Lazaro Cardenas.

Remember to check what bus station your bus is leaving from before going there because the two stations are pretty far from each other. Also at both bus stations you can buy tickets for the other bus station. For example after arriving from Oaxaca at Terminal Taop you go to the ticket seller and buy a ticket for Monterrey. That ticket might be for the Terminal Norte even though it was purchased at Terminal Tapo. Estrella Blanca and Autotransportes Tufesa offer extensive services throughout the country from Mexico City.

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Getting Around

Avenida Reforma,México D.F.

Avenida Reforma,México D.F.

© All Rights Reserved evelynez

Maps

The city government offers free color maps of Mexico City for all tourists. Go to one of the tourist kiosks located near a major sight and ask for a map. All they will want to know is what country you are from and how many people you are travelling with. The maps have all the major sites, hotels and youth hostels on them for all the neighborhoods that tourists visit. There is even a complete color subway map located on it. There is one kiosk located on the southeast corner of the Metropolitan Cathedral.

By Car

Driving in Mexico City seems insane. The traffic is intense, the streets are narrow and the drivers are insane. That being said one should think twice before renting a car and driving in Mexico City. Also many areas of the city are a maze of one-way streets that confuse even veteran taxi drivers.

Taxis
Taxi kidnappings still happen in Mexico City although with less frequency. It is best to use an authorized taxi when arriving at the airport, bus station or train station. Just follow the signs to the authorized taxi kiosk, tell the person at the kiosk where you are going and pay them and they will hand you a slip of paper. Go to the taxi line and give the slip of paper to the driver and tell the driver where you want to go. During the night, to insure safety, it is best to have the hotel, hostel, restaurant or bar call a taxi for you. Remember to bargain a price up front because there are no meters in any taxis.

By Public Transport

Mexico City is home to one of the best subway systems in the world. With 12 lines it makes it possible to get anywhere in the city on the subway for only 2.5 pesos! There are also buses that are pretty good and they cost 2 pesos.
During rush hour there are special carriages for women because there used to be a lot of complaints from women about men touching them especially during rush hour.

On Foot

Mexico City is massive and sprawls on for what seems infinity. With that being said, many of the areas that tourists are interested in are pretty easy to get around by walking. With a combination of public transport and walking, most tourists can see everything they want within the city.

By Bike

Traffic in Mexico City is insane and biking in that traffic might be considered a death wish. There are a few bike trails in Chapultepec Park. It is easy to rent a bike there and bike around.

Mexico City also has a bike sharing program known as EcoBici. There are outposts with available bikes and parking slots throughout the city. Before, this option only used to be available to residents with a long waiting list and application process. Now the program offers 1 day to 1 week passes to tourists as well. All you need is a passport and a major credit card to get a hold of a pass.

The main road, Paseo de la Reforma, runs through Mexico City and is also closed to cars on a Sunday. This is a great opportunity to get a hold of a bicycle and ride through the city without any fear of being run down by the commonplace manic driving.

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Eat

A good way to sample the delights of Mexican food produce is to visit a market. A good one to go to is the San Juan market downtown. This is a renowned food market with the reputation from having the most exotic meats, seafood and vegetables. Here you can find some fruits which you may never have seen before, and that are also very rare. Many of the fruits, such as the feijoa, were believed to be cherished by the ancient civilizations of Aztec and Mayan cultures. As a tourist, you also get the luxury of being bombarded with free samples as traders vie for your custom.

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Drink

Mezcal is the drink of choice for most Mexicans in the city on a night out. Mezcal is similar to Tequila, but exceptional for the quality of sugar it uses, coming from the maguey plant which is a type of agave. Haunts known as Mezcalerias can be found all over the city and specialize in Mezcal. Many Mexicans believe it is better to drink the young clear of silver mezcals because the drink hits you with all its fiery character. There are also rested (reposada) and aged (añejo) mezcals and price tends to go up with age, as does the smoothness of the drink. Traditionally, mescal is drunk with a slice of orange sprinkled with salt on it.

The most traditional drink of Mexico might be Pulque. This is an alcoholic drink made from the fermented sap of the maguey plant as well. It has a milky colour and consistency and is very potent. It is often the choice to go to a pulquería, specializing in the drink, when the main intention is to celebrate and inebriate. Pulques also come in a variety of flavours.

Although drink usually suggests alcohol, Mexico City has a great enthusiasm for freshly squeezed juices. Juice stands are very popular, almost as much so as tacos, and it is likely you will find a stall within a couple of blocks. It is a great way to get your daily intake of fruit, plus you have the freedom to make up your own concoctions, and all at a very reasonable price.

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Sleep

You could find a hotel in downtown Mexico City although there are many nice neighbourhoods to stay in such as Zona Rosa, Roma or Condesa. For people spending more then a few days in Mexico City it is best to spend a few days in the Zocolo area then branch out into some of the other neighbourhoods.

If staying for a month or more, there are many opportunities to rent or share an apartment for very reasonable prices in great areas such as Condesa, Roma, Coyoacan and Polanco. A good place to search is compartodepa.com.mx where you can find flat shares from one month upwards. It is quite common to find international or English speaking roommates too.

Budget

Zocalo Area

  • Hostel Amigo is an intense party hostel located in the Historic Center in a converted nunnery. This is a great place to meet people but be prepared for long nights of heavy drinking at the bar on the first floor. This place also offers free breakfast and dinner, and tequila every nights. The tours are a bit overpriced, although the helpful staff will help you figure out how to get to places by public transport even if you choose not to use their tour. Amigo Hostel is located at Isabel La Catolica 61, Phone: 01-800-74-67-835. Dorms from 150 to 180 pesos, private rooms 200 pesos all with shared bathrooms that have 24 hour hot water.

More budget options in the entire Mexico City area include:

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Bed and Breakfast Mexico HostelDurango 145 at corner Tonala st. colonia roma norteHOSTEL84
Casa ComtesseBenjamin Franklin 197 Colonia Hipodromo CondesaGuesthouse-
Casa GonzalezRio Sena 69Guesthouse85
Chillout FlatBolivar 8.apt102 Centro Historico, Mexico CityGuesthouse-
Condesa HausCuernavaca 142Guesthouse84
Del Prado HotelMarina Nacional 399 Colonia Veronica AnzuresHotel-
Hostal Casa ViejaCerrada de Londres # 7 Colonia Juarez (Between Sevilla Ave. & Toledo St.)HOSTEL86
Hostal CondesaAv. Tamaulipas 197 Col. Hipodromo CondesaGuesthouse-
Hostal Cuija CoyoacanBerlin 268; Col. del Carmen CoyoacanHostel88
Hostal MontejoBahia de Montejo 79, col. VeroGuesthouse-
Hostel CathedralRepublica de Guatemala No 4 Colonia Centro,Hostel88
Hostel Condesa ChapultepecCozumel Street #53-A Col. Roma NorteHostel82
Hostel HomeTabasco 303 Col. Roma , C.P. 06700 MéxicoHostel80
Hostel Amigo ZocaloMoneda 8, Centro DFHOSTEL84
Hostel333Colima #333 Colonia Roma, Del. CuauhtemocHostel77
Hostel Inn Zona RosaHamburgo #153 building 3 Col JuarezHOSTEL80
JadeEligio Ancona 242 Santa Maria de la RibeiraGuesthouse90
Mexico City HostelBrasil No. 8 Col. CentroHostel89
Versalles 104 GuesthouseVersalles 104Guesthouse-
YWCA Centro HistoricoHumboldt 62 Col.Hostel84
Hostel AmigoIsabel la Catolica #61 col. centro Z.CHostel84
Hostal Victoria DFCerrada de Varsovia 11 Colonia JuarezGUESTHOUSE-
Dakota B&BDakota 55 Colonia NapolesGUESTHOUSE-
El Patio 77Joaquin Garcia Icazbalceta 77 Colonia San RafaelGUESTHOUSE-
Anys HostalPuebla 263 Col. Roma NorteGuesthouse86
Hostel Airport Mexico DFAguascalientes 33 Peñon de los BañosGUESTHOUSE84
El Cenote AzulCalle Alfonso Pruneda #24 Colonia Copilco El Alto delegacion CoyoacanHostel-
Condesa AmatlanAmatlan #84 Col. CondesaGuesthouse-
Hostel Centro Historico Regina5 de Febrero No. 53 & Regina Col. Centro HistoricoHOSTEL87
Hostel Condesa Chapultepec PrivanzaCalle Etla 20 Col. Hipodromo CondesaHostel83
Hostel Amigo Suites DowntownLuis Gonzalez Obregon 14 DowntownHostel84
Suites DF HostelJesus Teran 38 Colonia TabacaleraHOSTEL88
Hotel SeñorialCallejón de la Esperanza No. 8 Col. Centro Histórico entre Bolivar y San JerónimoHotel-
Hostal Boutique La TerciaGenova #75 & #79HOSTEL-
Hotel El EjecutivoViena #8 Col. JuarezHOTEL-
Casa RoaFernando Gonzalez Roa 8 Cd. SateliteHOSTEL88
Massiosare El HostelRevillagigedo # 47, Corner with Victoria Street Colonia CentroHOSTEL86
MARIA DEL ALMAParis near Av. Mexico Del Carmen, CoyoacanGuesthouse-
Hostal La Buena VidaMazatlan 190 Col. Condesa Mexico D.F.HOSTEL84
Alba Deluxe FlatDivision del Norte No.120 - 12 Col. Del Valle Del. Benito JuarezAPARTMENT-
Hotel La RivieraAldama No.9 Col. GuerreroHOTEL-
B&B Distrito CondesaCholula 62GUESTHOUSE-
Downtown bedsIsabel La Catolica 30 Colonia CentroHOSTEL85
Hostal CondechiAtlixco 100 - 7 Colonia CondesaGUESTHOUSE-
Stayinn Barefoot CondesaJuan escutia 125 corner zamora Col CondesaHOSTEL85
Hostel Amigo ZócaloMoneda 8Hostel-
B&B MexicoAvenida Oaxaca 21 Colonia Roma NorteGUESTHOUSE-

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Learn

  • University of Mexico City - Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) is the principal university of Mexico City and is renowned for its excellence throughout Latin America. It is located in the Ciudad Universitaria, which is an allocated part of Mexico City which feels much like a student town. It is also a decent tourist attraction as the campus has a Museum of Modern Art, the Estadio Olímpico Universitario which hosted the 1968 Summer Olympics, and various murals dotting around the campus from the great muralists. The campus is often acclaimed on merit of its architecture.
  • The Tecnología de Monterrey is another university of note with a campus in Mexico City. This university is private and offers one of the top graduate business schools in Mexico. It is a popular choice for students looking to study in Mexico on an exchange program.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafe's are widely available and you generally can find one in the direct vicinity. Sometimes photocopy stores or photo processing stores will double as an internet cafe with a couple of computers. Look for signs reading "Acceso a Internet" or "Cibernautica" or "Cibercafe". Charges range from approx. US$1 an hour to US$3 an hour, depending on the location.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Phone cards can be purchased anywhere and are needed for the majority of public phones. To call any number outside your region you have to dial 01 then followed by the area code. If calling a cellphone from a normal phone start with with 044. If calling cellphone to cellphone just dial the 10-digit number. To make an international call dial 00 followed by the country code then the local number. To call to Mexico, also dial 00 (most of the times) followed by the national code 52.

Post

The Mexican postal service is operated by Correos de México. The post service in Mexico is pretty good although not very cheap. It is reliable regarding the sending of postcards, but it takes at least a week to send it to other countries (US/Canada), more so if you send it to Europe or Australia. For packages it is better to use international services like FedEx or UPS. If you are sending a package internationally with the Mexican postal service, take the package OPEN to the post office, they may want to inspect it. Seal it up at the post office. Post offices typically open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Monday to Friday, and 9:00am to 1:00pm Saturday. You will find post offices (Oficina de Correos) is almost any town or city in Mexico. To buy stamps it is best to go to the post office, although you can also get them at stamp machines, located outside the post offices, at bus stations, airports and some commercial establishments.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 19.42705
  • Longitude: -99.127571

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Mexico City Travel Helpers

This is version 70. Last edited at 9:32 on Apr 1, 14 by Utrecht. 78 articles link to this page.

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