ABOUT THE CITY
Mexico City is truly one of the most interesting and diverse cities in the world. It is the Capital of Mexico, and one of the world’s largest and most populated cities. The city is officially divided into 16 delegaciones (boroughs) which are in turn subdivided into colonias (neighborhoods), of which there are around 250; however, it is better to think of the city in terms of districts to help facilitate getting around.
Monuments, parks, fountains and great tree lined avenues are everywhere you are likely to visit within the city. Skyscrapers sit beside splendid examples of colonial architecture, archeological sites share space with modern day structures and freeways lead to charming neighborhoods of colonial buildings and peaceful plazas.
México City, the center of business, culture and government for the country, was once the center of the entire Aztec empire. The current Zócalo, or town square, is built on the same spot where once stood Montezuma’s palace. Many of the old mansions and public buildings in the area were built hundreds of years ago using the stones from the Aztec temples that were destroyed by the Spaniards. If you are seeking a taste of authentic Mexican culture there is more than enough to keep you occupied for the entire length of your stay.
Mexico City soars above the earth at an elevation of almost 8,000 feet. The great basin of Anahuac, also known as the Valley of Mexico, is an ancient lakebed about 60 miles long and 30 miles wide. It is on this vast surface, surrounded by towering mountains on all sides, that the original settlement was established by nomadic, indigenous people in the 14th century. From that modest beginning, the city has grown in every direction to encompass 300 colonias or neighborhoods connected by everything from cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways to eight lane major thoroughfares.
Mexico City is a place of incomparable energy and excitement. It is sprawling and populous in the extreme, yet cosmopolitan and modern. It is the site of a wealth of historical attractions and museums, striking architecture, and world-class performing arts.
Mexico City is the capital city of the nation of Mexico. The “Distrito Federal” is also commonly referred to as the “D.F.” It is one of the largest cities in the world and is classed as a megalopolis as it encompasses one large city that has slowly engulfed other, smaller ones. It is located in the Valley of Mexico (Valle de México), a large valley in the high plateaus (altiplano) at the center of Mexico, about 2,240 meters (7,349 feet) above sea-level, surrounded on most sides by volcanoes towering at 4,000 to 5,500 meters (13,000 to 18,000 feet) above sea-level.
Colonias, or neighborhoods, are a recurrent feature in Mexican cities and larger towns. They are the basic geographical unit in Mexico City and in contrast to the delegaciones (the boroughs of the Mexican Federal District) they are always included in a persons address. However colonias do not have any administrative attributions, and as with most of the city’s organization, there is no standard for the size, population or basic infrastructure to qualify as a colonia. To complicate things further, Mexico City inhabitants may sometimes call a colonia what is actually a collection of official colonias.
The name, which literally means colony, arose in the late 19th, early 20th century, when one of the first urban developments outside the city’s core was inhabited by a French colony in the city.
It is easy to divide the city into sections that contain the various colonias:
North (Ciudad Satélite, Tlalnepantla, Valle Dorado, Echegaray)
An area of town that was developed specifically for the middle class around Ciudad Satelite (literally, “Satellite City”), this part of the Mexico City Metropolitan Area (MCMA) is in the surrounding state of Mexico.
Mexico City dominates the nation’s economy. The Federal District produces a significant portion of Mexico’s gross domestic product, or GDP (the total value of goods and services produced in the country). Mexico City is the center of a manufacturing belt that stretches from Guadalajara in the west to Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico in the east. Manufactures include textiles, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, electrical and electronic items, steel, and transportation equipment. In addition, a variety of foodstuffs and light consumer goods are produced.
The city plays a dominant role in Mexico’s banking and finance industries. It is home to Banco de México (federal reserve bank), the Bolsa (stock exchange), and every major banking chain in the country. All major financial services, including insurance companies, are centered in Mexico City.
Mexico City History
The original Aztec city was established in 1325 as Tenochtitlan, and immediately became the center of a growing Empire. Located on a small island on the middle of Lake Texcoco, the layout of the city forced the Aztecs to build artificial islands and create a series of canals to allow the growth of the metropolis. In fact, although the lake was salty, dams built by the Aztecs kept the city surrounded by clear water from the rivers that fed the lake. Two double aqueducts provided the city with fresh water; this was intended mainly for cleaning and washing.
After centuries of pre-Columbian civilization,! the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés first arrived in the area in 1519. He did not succeed in conquering the city until August 13, 1521, after a 79-day siege that destroyed most of the old Aztec city.
In 1525 the rebuilt city served as the capital of the viceroyalty of New Spain and the political and cultural center of Mexico. The importance of the city was such that the Captaincy General of Guatemala, Cuba, Florida, and the Philippines were administered from it. This colonial period culminated with the construction of the baroque Metropolitan Cathedral and the Basilica of Guadalupe.
The outbreak of the War of Independence in 1810, and the eventual independence of the country in 1821 were unable to hamper the influence of the city even though it shook internal politics. The capital became host of the first ruler of the Mexican Empire, Agustin de Iturbide, and the year after he abdicated for the nation became a republic in March 1823.
Metro Area 19,411,000
Area 571 sq mi (1,480 sq km)
Altitude: 7,200 feet (2,240) meters above sea level
Time zone: (UTC) -6 UTC CST
Nickname: La Ciudad de los Palacios (the City of Palaces)
Flat blade attachment plug
Mexico 127V 60 Hz
The definition for time zones can be written in short form as UTC±n (or GMT±n), where n is the offset in hours. Here is an example given the local time in Zurich and New York City at 12:00 UTC when daylight saving time is not in effect:
Mexico City Standard Time Zone: GMT/UTC – 6:00 hour = 2:00pm
NYC Standard Time Zone: GMT/UTC – 05:00 hour = 3:00pm
Mexico City is on Central Time and does observe Day light Savings time.
Mexico City Metro
When it comes to alternative modes of commuting in the city, Mexico’s capital has very good infrastructure and very cheap public transport. The metro system is extensive, covering virtually the whole city with up to nine different routes. You can find a map of the routes and stations in every metro entrance and you can also buy your tickets there. Having entered the metro with your ticket you can change as many trains and routes as you like without using another ticket. The bus system is also very good, and then there are the “peseros” or mini-buses that are not quite as comfortable as the bus or the metro, but take you anywhere and everywhere. Public transport is generally quite safe, though you should be wary of traveling late at night. At rush hour public transport can be quite uncomfortable. For ladies traveling by metro, the first two cars of every train have been reserved for them and for young children so that they may travel more comfortably. All public transport is ridiculously cheap.
The Metro (subway)
Mexico City has a very efficient subway system which is clean and modern. The fare is inexpensive and transferring from one line to another can be done at no extra cost. The metro is currently undergoing extensive expansion. At this time, there are two Airport Metro stations.
Another obvious mode of transport is the omnipresent green beetle taxi. These taxis are cheap and easy to find, but they can be dangerous so it isn’t recommended to use them. You should pay a little extra and call a sitio-radio cab. Always be wary of crime in Mexico City and make sure to lock your doors and keep your windows wound up, whether you’re driving or taking a cab.
In Town Bus Service
Bus stops are marked with a big sign with a drawing of a bus. To be sure you have the right bus, state your destination in a quizzical tone and wait for a SI or NO from the driver. Buses cover most of the city. The sign in front of the bus indicates the final destination. Buses are entered from the front and exited through the rear door. You should have small change available for bus fare. Ring the buzzer over the back door prior to your desired stop. Try to move toward the back door a couple of blocks before your destination.
There are many ways to commute in Mexico City, most notably by car. Due to much work that was done on Mexico City’s overburdened infrastructure, and the inclusion of new urban highways like the “Viaducto”, “Periferico” and “Circuito Interior”, traffic generally flows and roads are wide and also mostly one way, thus being more conducive to flowing traffic, even though the maintenance leaves a lot to be desired. This means that when driving you should always beware and expect anything and everything – literally. Driving is much more of an “intuitive” experience in Mexico City. People tend to go in and out of lanes as they please, with the use of turning signals being the exception rather than the rule. Potholes abound, as do pedestrians and sometimes cyclists, and people often don’t respect even the most basic traffic rules. Expect cars to run red lights, to be coming the wrong way on a one-way street, to suddenly stop or turn without warning or logic.
Another form of weather exists in Mexico City and it’s all about the smog. If you drive a car, whether it’s yours or rented, bear in mind that one day out of every seven is a “Dia Sin Auto”, in which your car isn’t permitted within Mexico City boundaries. You can tell if your car’s day has come by checking the last number of the license plate against the official list at any tourist office, or as signed on the road. In December or January – the worst months for smog- the number could come up twice a week, so be careful.
Benito Juarez International Airport (MEX)
The airport is 13 km (8 miles) east of the center of Mexico City. Mexicana and Aeromexico are the major Mexican airlines. It has service to major cities around the world. If you need to exchange currency, it has conversion centers that provide reasonable rates.
When it comes to acquiring a Mexican driver’s license, you can usually do so without any exams or tests. You can get a driver’s license from the Transit Department at one of the “delegaciones” throughout the major cities. You will need the originals and 3 copies of the following documents:
A valid passport
FM2 or FM3 (VISA)
Proof of Address (i.e.: bill from the telephone or utilities)
A valid foreign driver’s license
You might have to take a written exam in order to qualify for the license.
Hours: 8 am to 1 pm
You will be issued a license within an hour at the Secretaria de Transportes y Vialidad. Tourists may drive with an international license or the driver’s license of their own country.
If you would like to bring your car into Mexico from the U.S. you will need to acquire a permit at the border by leaving a deposit the amount of which corresponds to the model and type of vehicle you’re driving. You will also have to buy Mexican insurance. Make sure you have an international credit card otherwise you’ll find this process a big nuisance. You may then gain entry into the country for a period of up to six months after which your permit (along with your FM-T tourist visa) will have to be renewed.
Local Phone Numbers
Dialing from New York to Mexico City
Dial: 011 52 55 XXXX-XXXX
How the number is composed:
011 is the international prefix used to dial somewhere outside of U.S.A..
52 is the international code used to dial to Mexico.
55 is the local area or city code used to dial to Mexico City.
XXXX-XXXX is the local number Exchange X with your number
Dialing from Mexico City to New York
Dial: 00 1 212 XXX-XXXX
How the number is composed:
00 is the international prefix used to dial somewhere outside of Mexico.
1 is the international code used to dial to U.S.A..
212 There are multiple city/area codes in use for New York.
XXX-XXXX is the local number. Exchange X with your number
|Emergency line (police, fire, and ambulance):||80|
If required, is pumped from trucks that prowl the streets every few weeks (depending on the company and the area of town). Because there are a number of concessionaires it’s best to ask the neighbors when they visit. Their rates are set by the government and the amount should be clearly stated somewhere on the outside of the vehicle.
Luz y Fuerza del Centro
You should receive a bill every two months. This bill can be paid at any branch of most major banks. It can also be paid directly at any one of their locations, which is also where one needs to go to apply for service.
Treasury of the Federal District
You may pay at the branches of major banks. You should receive a bill every two months.
More than 90% of local connections still belong to this telecommunications giant. Phone bills can be paid at most bank branches.
A relatively new company. Phone bills can be paid at most bank branches.
Operated by Telmex, is the largest cell phone service provider in Mexico.
|2||XEW||Canal De Las Estrellas|
|11||XEIPN||Once TV IPN|
|13||XHDF||TV Azteca 13|
|52||MVS||Canal 52 silent|
|1590||XEVOZ||news, sports, info|
|96.9||XEW||modern rock (Eng.)|
El Universal is one of the most popular papers in the city, with a circulation nearing 300,000.
The Herald Mexico
The Herald Mexico is a joint venture between the Miami Herald and El Universal. It’s an English language paper that focuses on Mexican coverage.
La Jornada is another major Mexico City daily with a circulation around 300,000. It tends to lean a little more to the left than El Universal.
As in a complex mosaic, each of the principal areas of Mexico City contains archeological sites, buildings from the Vice royalty, from the 19th Century, and of more contemporary design, and outstanding museums and cultural centers housed, on occasion, in ancient edifices or in newer purpose-built constructions.
Mexico City attractions are concentrated in three geographic areas of interest:
The historical center of the city is an intense microcosm full of human, artistic and monumental endeavor; of bustling commercial venues, and of superb restaurants. A compact 60-block sector replete with Aztec and Spanish colonial influence; includes the Zócalo, Avenida Madero/Juárez, the Alameda park, several fine museums and important historic sites
Floating Gardens of Xochimilco
In Aztec times, with prime farmland being scarce, the Indians developed a system of floating reed mats loaded with soil and used as gardens. Visitors float in flat bottomed boats through what’s left of a once enormous agrarian canal system that fed the Aztec capital.
National Museum of Anthropology
Arguably the finest archaeological museum in the world. There are 26 exhibit halls covering some 100,000 square feet of exhibits! Each room is dedicated to a portion of Mexico’s 30 centuries of human evolution.
Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe
Known affectionately as La Villa, the Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe is the most sacred spot in all of Mexico.
Paseo de le Reforma
The elegant Paseo de la Reforma spans downtown Mexico City from west to northeast. This grand boulevard was built during the reign of Emperor Maximilian, the Austrian Archduke who ruled Mexico from 1864-67. The boulevard was designed to connect the Emperor’s residence at Chapultepec Castle with the Zócalo. It was modeled after the Ave. Louise in Brussels (birthplace of Empress Carlota).
Today it is like a wide urban canyon, lined with towering office buildings, banks, hotels, and a few colonial mansions. Punctuating the boulevard are dozens of bronze statues, pedestrian promenades, and several enormous traffic circles (known as glorietas).
The “high fashion” center of Mexico City, this stylish neighborhood to the north of Chapultepec Park is home to many of the capital’s chic boutiques, trendy restaurants and hip night spots. Dozens of European designer shops line Avenida Presidente Masaryk. Many of the city’s most popular new restaurants are here, including Spagos, Los Alcatraces, Chez Wok, and Casa de Campo.
Latin sports such as the fiesta brava (bullfighting) — brought to Mexico by the Spanish — have enjoyed popularity for more than four centuries in the capital, which attracts the country’s best athletes. And although the roots of fútbol (soccer) are probably English, a weekend afternoon game at Mexico City’s colossal Estadio Azteca leaves no question but that this is the sport Mexicans are craziest about. Baseball and boxing have strong followings, too, as does over-the-top lucha libre (wrestling).
“Fútbol” (soccer) is Mexico’s most popular sport and has a wide following in Mexico City. Several very well known teams, including Club América, Cruz Azul and Pumas, are based in Mexico City. The Aztec Stadium (Estadio Azteca), home of Club America is one of the world’s largest stadiums with capacity to seat approximately 110,000 fans.
Baseball is also another popular sport with a growing fan base. Mexico City is home to the Diablos Rojos de Mexico (Red Devils) of the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol, with the team playing their home games at the Foro Sol Stadium.
The Mexican schools that offer the best in terms of bi-lingual education are the private schools, and they are for all intents and purposes the only option for children whose mother-language is not Spanish. There are five or six choices of private English-language schools in each of the three largest cities of Mexico, the capital, Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey, as well as French schools, German schools and even a Japanese school in Mexico City. There is an American school in all three major cities. Besides the American School Foundation in Mexico City (the oldest extant foreign school in Mexico, founded in 1888), the Greengates School is also considered one of the finest schools in Mexico. Greengates follows an English curriculum and most of the teachers are British nationals.
American School Foundation
The American School Foundation of Mexico City is the oldest institution of its kind in the world. The school began with a kindergarten level class since the first day of its founding in 1888. It provides a co-educational, bilingual-bicultural education from kinder through high school for an international student body. Students who complete their education at the American School Foundation are prepared to attend colleges and universities in the United States and Mexico, as well as in other countries.
The ASF is an American School with a diverse enrollment and an international flavor. By nationalities, the student body of 2400 is approximately 60% Mexican, 30% American and 10% from some 40 other countries. Its campus facilities and activities (both academic and extracurricular) are comparable to schools in the United States.
Escuela Inglesa Kent
Opening its doors in 1959, Escuela Inglesa Kent (EIK) is one of the most respected and popular educational institutions in Mexico. Committed to teaching students to think and grow in a multi-cultural and communicative environment, the school welcomes all ideologies and nationalities. The preschool and kindergarten is based on a full immersion program where children are taught both English and Spanish. Housing both library and computer facilities, some of the extra-curricular activities include Basketball, music, ballet and theatre. To request more information Click Here.
Greengates School is a British International school, founded in 1951, and located in the northern suburbs of Mexico City. With just over a thousand students between the ages of 3 and 18, we mainly serve the foreign diplomatic, commercial and banking communities. English is the language of instruction and the majority of teachers are British, many of whom are contracted from the United Kingdom. In the Infant and Junior School we follow a modified British National Curriculum, which leads on to widely recognized I.G.C.S.E. and I.B. examinations in the Upper School.
Founded in 1971, Eton School has a multinational student body, represented by over 20 countries. Early Childhood levels offer total English immersion and the project method; Elementary levels are completely bilingual and Jr/Sr High School, in addition to the SEP/UNAM programs, offers IBO examination preparation. At present, Eton has approximately 1,100 students in three locations: Toddler Center (Alpes 1140) and Early Childhood (Alpes 605) in Lomas de Chapultepec; Elementary, Junior and Senior High School (Domingo García Ramos) in Santa Fe. All schools are in the most beautiful and least contaminated areas in Mexico-City.
There are several Mexican Universities offering advanced technical degrees, bachelor’s degrees (licenciaturas), master’s degrees (maestrias) and doctorates (doctorados).
Like its U.S. equivalent, the Mexican bachelor’s degree usually takes four to five years to complete, while a degree from a technical school can be completed in between two to four years.
The following Universities are widely recognized as quality institutions of higher education and worth investigating by anyone interested in studying in Mexico.
Alliant International University
Alvaro Obregón No. 110, Colonia Roma
06700 Mexico D.F.
52 (55) 5264-2187
52 (55) 5264-2188 Fax
Founded in 1970, Alliant International University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). We at Solutions Abroad highly recommend Alliant International University.
Aristoteles 80, Colonia Polanco.
UNAM – Center for Foreign Students
San Juan Totoltepec and Av. Alcanfores, Colonia San Mateo
Courses for Spanish language learning, Mexican history and culture.
Universidad De Las Americas
Puebla 223, Colonia Roma.
Bi-lingual university in Mexico City
Prolongación Paseo de la Reforma 880, Santa Fe.
5292-1883 International División
Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México (UNAM)
Apartado Postal 70-391
Av. Universidad 3002, Ciudad Universitaria
Center of study for foreign students.
Domingo Garcia Ramos 56,
Prados de la Montaña I, Santa Fe.
Courses taught in English.
Currency & Banking
The currency of Mexico is the peso (MXN). The symbol for pesos is the same as for US dollars, which can be slightly confusing. Prices in dollars (in tourist areas) are labeled “US$”.
Exchange rate Pesos per US dollar
The currency is composed of several denominations in metal and paper: there are 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins, including 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 pesos; there are 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 peso bills in circulation.
Mexico has one of the richest cuisines on earth, and one can literally discover a new dish or type of food every day. Foreigners should of course be very careful when eating out, especially when eating food from street vendors. Like any country, Mexico has its own particular type of germs and bacteria which foreigners need to become accustomed to. Until the body can develop the necessary immunity, one can experience an unpleasant time in coping with the change. The physical discomfort that accompanies this period of adjustment is often referred to as ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’. Nevertheless, with a little care and some discernment, there is a lot to discover and enjoy when it comes to eating in Mexico.
Embassy & Visa
American Embassy in Mexico City
Paseo de la Reforma 305
06500 Mexico, D.F.
Tel : ( 01-55 ) 5080-2000
Fax: ( 01-55 ) 5525-5040
From the U.S.:
The overwhelming majority of the population is Roman Catholic, and many Mexicans are deeply religious and conservative in character. Be careful when you bring up issues such as homosexuality; many, especially those outside of Mexico City, are not very tolerant about it.
If you’re a female traveler, be mindful that the country still experiences a high rate of machismo. In particular, wearing shorts outside of large, metropolitan areas and beach resorts is a bad idea, and may lead to uncomfortable attention.
Mexicans have a somewhat relaxed sense of time, so be patient with them. Don’t lose your temper if they arrive 15 minutes later than scheduled. However, if it’s more than 30 minutes, you should be concerned.
Fortunately, you will find that in general, health care in Mexico is very good and in many places it is excellent. Most doctors and dentists in Mexico received at least part of their training in the U.S. (And many U.S. doctors have trained in Mexico, notably in Guadalajara.) Many of them continue to go to the U.S. or Europe for ongoing training.
The cost of health care in Mexico is generally one-half or less what you might expect to pay in the U.S. The same goes for prescription drugs. Prescription drugs manufactured in Mexico cost, on average, about 50% less than the same drugs in the U.S.
Mexico’s mail varies in speed and quality of service. The largest cities have five to seven day delivery times from the U.S. while rural Mexican mail can take up to a month. All outgoing mail is assigned a rate of “Airmail” and the charge for a one ounce letter is about fifty U.S. cents (Five Pesos). A special service was introduced in 1995, named “MEXPOST”. For a fee of around twelve dollars U.S. your letter will reach it’s destination in the U.S. or Canada, in about three days.
The Mexican tax system has been subject to comprehensive tax reform legislation. This legislation, enacted principally in 1986, 1988 and 1994, has dramatically changed the tax laws in an attempt to make the system competitive with the tax systems of Mexico’s most important trading and investment partners as well as with the systems of countries competing with Mexico for foreign investment.
Principal Taxes in Mexico
The principal taxes payable by individuals and by corporations operating in Mexico and, in certain cases, by foreign companies, are those levied by the federal government.
State and municipal governments have more limited taxing powers and until now have never levied general corporate income taxes; some states tax employers on salaries and professional fees paid by them. The principal taxes are as follows:
It is very easy to bring your pet to Mexico. All that is needed is:
1. A vaccination certificate stating that your pet has been vaccinated against rabies, hepatitis, pip and leptospirosis.
2. An official health certificate that must be issued by a veterinarian no more than 72 hours before entering Mexico.
You may enter the country with up to two large pets (dogs or cats). If you want to enter the country with any more than two pets you would need permission, which could be obtained from the Mexican consulate nearest you. In any case, it would be a good idea to go to a Mexican consulate ahead of your trip and inform them of your plans. You will be relieved to know that there is no quarantine period required for bringing a pet into Mexico