Mexico City is the teeming metropolis that people crave for an active vacation. Though it’s the largest city in the world, with more than 20 million people, it’s broken up into bite-sized pockets making it a very approachable destination. The city itself is built on top of the ruins of the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, hints of which can be seen in some areas.
Getting there: Flying into Benito Juárez International Airport (www.aicm.com.mx, 52-55-5571-3600) is a snap. Aside from locally based Aeroméxico (www.aeromexico.com), most major U.S. airlines fly here including Delta (www.delta.com), American (www.aa.com), United (www.united.com), Northwest (www.nwa.com) and Continental (www.continental.com). The airport is 30-45 minutes from many major hotels. Many can arrange for a car to pick up your client at the airport.
Getting around: Most major car rental companies are here too. If your clients decide to drive, recommend a GPS-enabled vehicle. The streets are not set up like a grid and can be confusing. If traveling by cab, have your clients request a cab be called by someone from the attraction they are visiting. Cabs that are not governmentally approved can be dangerous.
Tour Operators: Slatterys Escorted Tours (www.slatterys.com) offers tours of Mexico City and beyond, with the goal of experiencing the traditions and cultures of the community. Caravan Tours (www.caravantours.com, 800-CARAVAN) features a tour to Mexico City combined with other historical cities such as the ruins of Teotihuacán. City Discovery (www.city-discovery.com, 419-244-6440) offers a variety of day and night trips in and around the city. Majestic Mexico Tours (www.mexico-tours.com, 850-314-9339) has a variety of three- and six-day packages, which include hotel transfers and on-the-ground tours.
Attractions: Recommend a private tour at the Frida Kahlo Museum. With all signs in Spanish, a personalized tour is a better way to understand the artist’s experience. Many of the museums also have hand-held devices, which act as tour guides, available in a variety of languages.
Restaurants: There are so many great restaurants in Mexico City, yet for some reason its not on most epicureans’ top eating-city lists. Tipping here is about 10 percent, but leaving 15 percent will make your client seem like a big shot.
Casa Lamm (52-55-5514-8501) is adjacent to an exclusive private school and arts center. One wall of the restaurant is made up entirely of retractable glass doors, with views out onto a picturesque courtyard. It’s recognized as one of the city’s top dining hot spots in multiple magazines. It’s at Alvaro Obregon 99, in Colonia Roma. In Coyoacán, Los Danzantes (www.losdanzantes.com, 52-55-5554-1213) serves contemporary Mexican cuisine. Suggest the fresh tuna in garlic and chili or the Oaxaca two moles chicken. It’s at Jordan del Centenario No. 12. Los Girasoles (www.restaurantelosgirasoles.com, 52-55-5510-0630) off Plaza Manuel Tolsa features an array of seasonal dishes and dishes that explore traditional Mexican flavors and textures. Around the corner from the Embassy Suites is Tacos El Caminero, an authentic local joint. It’s strictly counter-style seating, but the Coca-cola comes in little bottles and there’s a television to watch local soccer matches. It’s a great way to get a taste of real Mexican culture.
Passports: New rules mean that passports are now required to enter and leave Mexico from the United States. However, a visa is not necessary.
Weather: Located high atop Mexico’s central plateau, Mexico City is about 7,000 feet above sea level. It translates into weather that’s mild all year long with highs ranging from 70 to 80 degrees. Lows usually fall into the 40s and 50s, so a jacket is important. From June to September, it typically rains for a bit in the afternoon. October and May are the best months to avoid a downpour.
Other info: The weakening U.S. dollar means that visitors won’t get as much value when they switch to pesos, but it’s still a little over a 10-to-1 ratio. Also, Mexico City is in a major earthquake zone. In 1985, a quake of 8.1 http://www.esmas.com/noticierostelevisa/terremoto/475688.htmlon the Richter scale proved to be one of the worst ever in this hemisphere. The last earthquake of note was in summer 2006. Suggest clients pay heed to quick ways to exit a building just in case. Also, tell them not to worry if they’re rusty with their high school Spanish, most people they will encounter can speak at least some English. It’s also a smoking city, both indoors and outside. Locals will not be happy if told to extinguish their cigarettes.