Guys, I have big news.
I’m finally leaving the Capital.
At first, my plan was to live in Mexico City for a year. That year soon turned into 15 months. Then, 18 months.
What can I say? I fell in love with the place.
But there comes a time when a man must move on. There are too many great cities in Latin America to get strapped down to one.
The road is calling. A few months in Canada, and I’ll be off again. To where, I’m not sure. Maybe Bogota, maybe Rio or maybe Buenos Aires.
You’ll have to stay tuned to find out.
As a sort of parting gift, I’ll leave you with a full breakdown of what life is like in Mexico City. We’re talking cost of living, bars, restaurants, women, weather, safety.
I’ll even throw in some pictures of my apartment for the hell of it.
Belt yourself in, because this will be a long post. But by the end of it you should have no doubts about what it’s like to live in Mexico City
Let’s get it started.
Moving to Mexico City
So, you’ve made the decision to live in Mexico City for awhile…congrats! Everyone is doing it, after all.
Here are the three things you should do before anything else.
1. Find a temporary place to stay
When I first came here, I didn’t have a plan. I mean, I really didn’t. When I wandered outside of Benito Juarez International Airport into the warm Mexican air, I didn’t have a hostel, hotel or Airbnb booked. Fortunately, the only hostel I knew about had a bunk available, but I would have been screwed if it didn’t.
Don’t be like me.
If you’re planning on living in Mexico City, book a place in advance. Airbnb is your best option for this. I suggest booking something in your desired neighbourhood (we’ll talk about desirable neighbourhoods soon!) for one month. This will give you enough time to transition into your new surroundings, as well as to find a more permanent living situation.
2. Get a SIM card
The next thing you’ll want to do is get a SIM card with a local phone number. You’ll need this in case of emergencies, to call listings for apartment rentals and to keep in touch will all of the new friends you’ll make down here.
You’ll want to do this sooner rather than later – folks tend to prefer to communicate by phones here in Mexico City as opposed to, say, email. If you’re living in Mexico City, like anywhere else, you’ll need to be accessible by phone!
Fortunately, getting a SIM card in Mexico City is very easy to do. If you arrive in the late morning or in the afternoon, simply go to a Movistar or Telcel kiosk on your way out of the airport. Simply present your passport, pay about $5 or $6 dollars for the SIM card and BOOM! You’re all set up with your local number. You can add credit to your phone at any supermarket or convenience store. A 200 peso recharge each month should give you a decent amount of minutes and data.
If you arrive to the airport when the Movistar and Telcel kiosks are closed, don’t worry! You can easily get a SIM card at one of their offices, which are located all throughout the city (malls usually have kiosks that sell them, too).
3. Make sure your credit cards/debit cards work
There’s nothing worse than arriving to a foreign country and realizing that none of your cards work. Maybe your bank has cancelled them because you forgot to alert them that you’d be travelling, or maybe the local banks can’t communicate with yours. Luckily, I haven’t heard too many people having a problem with this in Mexico – the ATMs down here should take most cards…but you never know!
When you arrive to the city, make a cash withdrawal at an ATM. HSBC, Scotiabank, Santander, BBVA, are all big banks that have a presence here. This is just to confirm that everything is working as it should. Once you’ve done that successfully, you can rest easy knowing that you’ll have access to your money! Needless to say, if you want to live in Mexico City, it’ll be tough to do so without cash.
If you have these three things in order, you’ll be in fine shape to settle into life here in CDMX.
Now, let’s get into the other important stuff.
Do you have questions? Skip the guesswork…
Cost of Living in Mexico City
If you’re anything like me, this is the first thing to consider before moving to a city. Fortunately, I now make decent enough money to be comfortable living in Mexico City.
But it wasn’t always that way.
When I arrived, I was pinching pennies and counting dimes. My work situation was precarious. This made me very aware of what everything cost here.
I’ll now pass that information on to you.
Here is a photo denoting what I pay in rent each month. I have a roommate, so this is split between two people:
8900 Mexican Pesos a month = $478.00 US dollars per month (at the time of writing).
So, I pay $240 USD in rent each month. Additional costs include water ($9.00 USD every two months split between two people = $2.50 each a month), electricity ($14 USD every two months split between two people = $3.50 USD a month) and maintenance ($20 a month split between two people = $10 USD a month). Internet is included in the rent.
$240 + $2.50 + $3.50 +$20 = $266.00
So, when all is said and done, I pay a total of $266.00 USD to rent an apartment in Mexico City.
Not bad, eh?
But what does that get you? I’ll show you.
Here is the location of my apartment: right on the border between the neighbourhoods of Roma Sur and Condesa. This is one of the best locations in the city. It’s safe and surrounded by bars, cafes and restaurants. This is where the largest concentration of expats are living in Mexico City.
The apartment is approximately 850 square feet, with two bedrooms and one bathroom.
Here are some photos.
It’s worth noting that I was extremely lucky to find a place in this location for this price. A more common price for a room in a house or apartment in Condesa, sharing with 3 or four other people, is $320 USD – $480 USD. If you want your own pad in Roma or Condesa, you will pay $700 USD to $1000 USD for something decent. I have confirmed all these prices with friends with different living situations in the area.
In closing: You will pay $250 – $500 USD to share an apartment in Condesa or Roma in Mexico City, and anywhere from $700-$1000 for your own place. Whether living in Mexico City will be cheap or expensive will largely depend on where/how you choose your house or apartment.
***P.S. I wrote a post on how to find an apartment in Mexico City
If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, here are a few of the websites I recommended in the article:
Here I will list the prices of a few food items to give you an idea of what you will spend on groceries while living in Mexico City.
Bag of Spinach (300 grams) = $2.50
1 kilo of chicken = $6.40
Loaf of bread = $2.40
1 litre of milk = $0.85
6 Bananas = $0.65
A dozen eggs = $1.10
10 Litres of Water = $1.30
Pack of cigarettes = $2.50
Tall can of beer = $0.80
Bottle of Bacardi Rum (1 litre) = $7.00
Bottle of mid-range wine = $9.50
Personally, I spend between $30 – $40 a week on groceries. I don’t eat very much, but I don’t skimp either. While living in Mexico City, you’ll find that food is much cheaper.
Let’s say you’ll spend $160 a month on groceries each month (this doesn’t include eating out…we’ll get to that now).
Small family restaurants (called fondas) will typically offer a full course meal for 60 pesos, or $3.00 USD. This includes a starter, main course, drink and (sometimes) dessert.
Street food costs the following:
5 small tacos = $1.60
1 torta (sandwich) = $1.50
1 quesadilla = $0.80
1 hamburger = $1.60
1 gordita = $0.65
1 Starbucks small Americano = $1.40
1 cappuccino =$1.90
1 litre of fresh orange juice = $1.10
Mid-range restaurants usually range between 120 – 230 pesos, or $6.50 – $12.00.
For high-end restaurants, expect to pay what you would at home.
Bars and Clubs
Cover charges in the city range from $8.00 USD to $13.50 at the more exclusive clubs. Many bars have free entry.
For my price breakdown, I’ll focus on more “normal” bars and clubs – the one’s you’re most likely to frequent while living in Mexico City…at least during the first few months.
Bottle of beer = $2.70
Cocktail = $6.50
Bottle = $55.00 (will vary greatly by venue)
Metro/Metrobus ticket (unlimited transfers; no zone system) = $0.30
Taxi starting fare = $0.50; from Condesa to Polanco or Centro = $3.50 approx.
1 weekend movie ticket = $5.00
1 Month with Movistar (200 mins; 1 GB Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail) = $11.00
1 Month membership = $50.00
My Monthly Cost of Living Breakdown
Bars/Clubs = $250
Transportation = $50
Misc (clothing, personal care, phone bill, gym etc) = $75
Total monthly expenses = $1001.00 USD
The low rent helps keep my costs down, so I splurge a bit more on bars and restaurants (I’ve rolled dates with women into this too).
By all accounts (if he/she has a roommate) a person can be comfortable living in Mexico City for $1000.00 a month.
Do you have questions? Skip the guesswork…
Bars and Restaurants
Now, I’ll throw out some recommendations of bars and restaurants I’ve enjoyed while living in Mexico City.
Pata Negra – Tamaulipas 30, 1er Piso, Cuauhtémoc, Condesa
Mono – Calle Versalles 64, Cuahutémoc, Juárez
Janis – Eje 3 Poniente – Medellín 65, Cuauhtémoc, Roma Nte
Pan y Circo – Av Álvaro Obregón 160, Roma Nte
Bulldog Cafe – Rubens 6, Colonia San Juan, Delegación Benito Juárez
Rioma – Insurgentes Sur 377, Cuauhtemoc
Molly – Av. San Jerónimo 263, Delegación Álvaro Obregón (***CLOSED)
Patrick Miller – Calle Mérida 17, Cuauhtémoc, Roma Nte
Niuyorquina – Av. Tamaulipas 30, Cuauhtémoc
Wallace – Tamaulipas 45, Cuauhtémoc, Condesa
Limontour – Álvaro Obregón 106, Cuauhtémoc, Roma Nte
El Imperial – Álvaro Obregón 293
El Salon Tenampa – Plaza Garibaldi, Guerrero
La Casa de Toño – Londres 144, Cuauhtémoc
Ojo de Agua – Calle Citlaltépetl 23C, Cuauhtémoc
Fonda el Refugio – Calle Liverpool 166, Cuautéhmoc, Juárez
Fonda del Recuerdo – Bahía de las Palmas 37, Miguel Hidalgo, Verónica Anzúres
Contramar – Durango 200, Cuauhtémoc, C. U. Benito Juárez
El Hidalguense – Campeche 155, Cuauhtémoc, Roma Sur
El Parnita – Av Yucatán No.84 Local E2, Cuauhtémoc, Roma Nte
Cafe Buna – Orizaba #42 Col. Roma Norte
Escarapela – Nuevo León 62, Cuauhtémoc, Condesa
Panaderia Rosetta – Calle Havre #73, Cuauhtemoc, Juárez
El Vilsito – Avenida Universidad, Narvarte Poniente
This is by no means a comprehensive list – I’ve purposely stuck to recommendations close to Roma/Condesa/Centro, as this is where I suggest you live in Mexico City as a foreigner. Most of these places fall into the mid-range price category.
I’ve excluded many neighbourhoods here (there are simply too many to name) but use this as a rule of thumb for the neighbourhoods most suited to living in Mexico City.
These neighbourhoods are safe:
These neighbourhoods are moderately safe:
These neighbourhoods are dangerous:
The first group of neighbourhoods I’ve listed are generally safe to walk around at all hours. Nevertheless, I’d recommend being in a group if you are going to be walking around at night, especially if you’re a woman. A few girls I know have been robbed – one in Condesa, one in Polanco one in Centro – so keep your guard up regardless of where you are.
If you are going to take taxis while living in Mexico City (I’d suggest UBER instead) try not to take one that’s parked. Although rare, express kidnappings still happen here. Usually, these criminal taxi drivers will wait outside an expensive bar or nightclub in a good area to scope out a victim. For this reason, you’ll be safer walking to the nearest street and hailing one that’s moving.
Also, if your taxi driver stops to ‘get gas’ (i.e call some of his buddies to meet you at your destination where you’ll be robbed) or makes a suspicious phone call while driving, it’s best to get out of the cab and catch another.
Don’t let all of this scare you: I’ve been here almost a year and a half without any issues. I’ve found that living in Mexico City as a foreigner is generally very safe…And I’ve hung out in some sketchy areas at night (Iztapalapa, Doctores and Guerrero). But I always try to play it safe by not walking too far if I’m alone and always relying on UBER instead of taxis.
Here is more information about safety in Mexico for foreigners and expats.
Rainy season starts around April. It will usually rain once a day, typically in the evening, but only for an hour or so. Average temperature here in Mexico City is around 18°C (64°F). In my opinion, the best time to visit is from September to February. Bring a jacket because it can get a bit cold at night. The weather here is pleasant – never too hot or too cold. Yet another positive factor of living in Mexico City.
So, what’s it like living in Mexico City? Well, my life in Mexico City was pretty damn good!
You’ll notice that I’ve left out a few things in this post. Most notably, tourist attractions. Don’t worry, there’s more than enough of those in the city. Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor and Wikipedia will do a better job of explaining them than I could ever do.
Until next time,
Do you have questions? Skip the guesswork…