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Facts of life about living in Mexico City
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I’m sure your head is filled with all kinds of questions about what life in Mexico City will be like. And it should be because most likely you are not living here right now.
But you can get a good sense of what to expect living in Mexico by researching with my posts. They touch on all types of facts about Mexico, regardless of whether they are good or bad. And for further detail on the talking points in this post, you can look into my guide about life in Mexico City.
Now, I am going to list some facts you should know about living in Mexico City that will explain some aspects before you move here.
1. You will be more comfortable living in Mexico City
City life is probably best for you if you do not want to go out of your comfort zone. Nowadays, Mexican cities resemble other cities around the world. You will find malls, different types of restaurants and a lot of leisure activities to do while living in Mexico City.
Life in Mexico City is fast-paced, something you should already be familiar with. This should put you somewhat at ease because it will make your adjustment easier. However, Mexico City will at times make you will feel out of place.
Not because you do not belong in Mexico, but because of the treatment you will receive from some individuals' lack of manners here. It might make you doubt your move to Mexico City. However, I would not read too much into this because Chilangos consider themselves better than everyone, no matter where they are from, especially individuals from Provincia.
2. Mexico City neighborhoods are called Colonias
Mexico City, like all other Mexican cities, is divided into Delegations, the same as Precincts / Boroughs in U.S. cities. Today, they are known as Alcaldias and consist of neighborhoods known as Colonias. As of today, Mexico City has 1,812 Colonias and 16 Alcaldias.
Research well because you will find that every Alcaldia has both good and bad Colonias. There is a lot of information on these two subjects that will help increase your comfort in Mexico City. In anticipation of, I wrote a post to assist you with exploring neighborhoods in Mexico City.
It goes into more detail about how the political parties affect where you decide to live in Mexico City and what you will encounter living here. Like I said before, your comfort in Mexico City will depend on you making well informed decisions.
3. Transport in Mexico City
You will be moving to one of the most populated cities in the world. Not only is Mexico City full of people, with a population just a bit shy of 9 million, it also covers a lot of area. For this reason, The Sistema de Transporte Colectivo de la Ciudad de Mexico (Collective Transportation System of Mexico City) has three primary public transportation options available that are cheap and fairly efficient.
The first being the Metro (Subway), the second option is the Metro-Bus (Public Bus) and thirdly you can use the Trolebus (Trolley-Bus). Another mode of transportation you can use is Micro-Buses (Mini-Buses). They are privately owned and my least favorite, but are probably the most convenient option.
These services vary in price and can cost anywhere between $4 and $20 pesos. The cheapest is the Trolebus (Trolley-Bus) with a cost starting at $4 pesos. By the way, and before I forget, prices will increase depending on the service you take.
For instance, Micros charge more when you take one from Mexico City into The State of Mexico and vice-versa. Just the same, the Trolebus will charge more depending on the distance and route.
You also have taxis at your disposal to use. However, a word to the wise, taxis are not that safe and they will rob you without using a weapon. I do not mean they lock you in and violently take your belongings. It is done incognito by altering the meter to charge more. You can keep clear of this abuse by using the App CDMX to call for a taxi.
Due to unexpected factors, such as weather or a protest, you might need to explore additional transportation methods. You can decide to go on foot or ride a bike to get to your destination. Although it is easier said than done. Look into this post about biking in Mexico City before using it as an alternative way of transportation.
4. Crime in Mexico City
With a crime rate of 68%, Mexico City is very dangerous. Honesty is a big issue. Just listen to their motto, “El que no tranza, no avanza”. Who says that? They are literally saying that the only way to get ahead is by swindling others.
What does one expect from individuals that repeat this type of slogan? Especially when everyone from normal citizens to public officials use it so freely. I'm thinking, if they share the same reasoning, then one should not be surprised by what comes next.
The next logical step would be to help each other out. Right? Well, not in the way you might think. Instead, another problem is created called impunity. Collusion between criminals and authorities in Mexico is nothing new. It is well documented and has been going on since who knows when; it is the reason criminals kill over and over again.
Crime is widespread in Mexico City, but it is the highest in the Alcaldias Iztapalapa, Gustavo A. Madero and Cuauhtemoc. The most important advice I can give you is to always be aware and be very cautious of where you are at all times while living in Mexico City.
Also, just as important, is to understand that Chilangos aren't solely responsible for the bad rep Mexico City receives. People from all over move freely throughout the city and no one more than individuals from the nearby State of Mexico.
They cross daily into Mexico City. A lot of them are going to work, but the ones who aren't, contribute heavily to the crime here. They tend to commit crimes and flee back to the safety of The State of Mexico.
5. Electricity in Mexico City
Your standard of living in Mexico City will be affected depending on where you choose to live. Not to be confused with your quality of life, similar, yet different. This post talks about the change coming to the quality of life in Mexico and will help you understand the difference.
Basic services, like light in you home, are part of your standard of living. I cannot stress enough the need for you to comprehend the little importance placed on basic services in Mexico. It will become more apparent after you reflect on everything that goes into getting water or gas to your home here.
That being said, I will talk a bit about the 3 most important services that will be affected by your move to Mexico City. The first one I would like to talk about is electricity, more specific, power outages.
They usually happen when it is windy or rainy, can last a couple of hours and can damage your appliances. You will not be able to surf the internet or even make a phone call because the modem is no longer working. However, I have a tip so you can take precautions.
You should know that the Alcaldias in the south of Mexico City are usually the most affected from electric outages. I don't know why that is, but I can assure you that other parts of Mexico City do not suffer the same.
In the past, I have been sent home from work in the Alcaldia Cuauhtemoc and the Alcaldia Benito Juarez, both are in the south of Mexico City, because we had been without power for half the day. I still got paid, though.
Today, you have 4 companies you can choose from to meet your electricity needs in Mexico City. The first and the most used is the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE). The least used are BH Energy Supply and Enlace y Representación Gubernamental T&M. Lastly, you can use Suministro Básico Del Centro (SUBACE).
The latter choice was established by union members of the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME) and is only available in downtown Mexico City. It is also made up of the "old guard" that managed the now defunct Luz y Fuerza Company.
I suggest you use CFE because they have all the necessary infrastructure to keep your home lit. Anyways, all the others have limited service in specific areas of Mexico City.
There are also changes that are being implemented to improve national industries, specifically Energy Reform. It can only increase your comfort living in Mexico.
6. Water in Mexico City
What about water in Mexico City? Well, I can tell you that we have wasted a lot of our time on water problems while living in Mexico. Mostly because of mismanagement and a lack of preparedness from the authorities here.
For instance, water is only distributed in the morning throughout Mexico City by the Comision Nacional de Agua (Conagua). If you do not have all that is needed to take advantage of the small window to get water, like a cisterna, you will run out of it. You also need to take into account that water is sometimes not distributed at all in certain areas. This post talks about the changes to water distribution in Mexico City and The State of Mexico.
Another headache is the water system, which is located in Cutzamala, because it is out-dated and does not meet 21st Century living needs. There's always some type of maintenance needed and you will not receive water during this time period. It varies but will most likely last about 3 days.
Because water shortages are very common, you should look into which areas of Mexico City are the most affected by them. Believe me, you will be elated when your colonia does not experience any water disruptions from the monthly "maintenance".
One will find while researching life in Mexico City that some parts of the city do not get water from Cutzamala. Therefore, not suffering the same from water shortages.
7. Gas in Mexico City
Now onto gas in Mexico City. From our experience, gas prices always go up and you get ripped off because of a lack in competition. As of today, 15 companies control the distribution of gas for all of Mexico City. Amazing, because there are 9 million people here.
They come around screaming "El gas, gas, gas.......el gas", three times a week and usually in the afternoon. The gas truck, filled with gas tanks, makes its rounds slowly around the neighborhoods in Mexico City. It is really dangerous in my eyes. Here is a video with audio on what I am talking about. Not the best quality, but you will get the idea.
What do I need to get gas in my residence in Mexico City? You will need to purchase a gas cylinder, either full or empty. The empty ones can be bought at any Home Depot and a full gas cylinder will need to be bought from the gas guy. You decide the size of the cylinder.
Gas for domestic use is distributed in liquid state in 6 to 45 kilogram cylinder tanks. Tanks of 20 and 30 kilograms are the most commonly used in households. Most informal businesses use 6 and 10 kilogram tanks, while 45 kilogram tanks are rarely used.
You can also choose to place a stationary tank on your roof. It won't keep you from being ripped off, but at least it is more convenient. This post talks about purchasing power in Mexico and will help decrease your exposure to fraudulent behavior here. It will also help for when you buy gasoline at the pump.
8. Having a roof in Mexico City
Real estate in the city provides a great opportunity for everyone; whether you are looking to buy or rent a house, apartment or vivienda while living in Mexico City. When you begin your search, it is important to know your price range and select areas that you want to live in Mexico City.
Look into the housing arrangements available in Mexico City and what they include before making a decision. Also, you will need to visit your area of interest often and at different times. It will help you get a better sense of what it really is like before living there.
I hope you like noise because no matter where in Mexico City you decide to live, you will be subject to a serenade of sounds. It will happen in San Felipe de Jesus just the same as it will in Lomas de Chapultepec.
9. Entertainment and food in Mexico City
Always on the go, Chilangos look to unwind and catch a bite to eat in Mexico City. You have an array of choices for dining. Before nightfall, you have your usual taco stands along with stands that offer guisado tacos. They range from $3 pesos to as much as $25 pesos.
Cocinas or kitchens offer a lunch menu at an affordable price, between $50.00 and $100.00 pesos, for a three to four course meal choice of freshly cooked food. They usually prepare a daily menu with a different main course. This is what determines the price. You can expect to pay $50.00 for albondigas or $100.00 for bistec.
Polanco, Napoles and Reforma are other areas of Mexico City that have a variety of restaurants. You will find them to be more fresa and of course more expensive. Do not think that everything will be better because of the price, you probably are paying more due to the location. I do not frequent these restaurants because to me, they are not worth it.
You should always be wary of where you dine. Everyone in Mexico cuts corners to make a peso more and restaurants will use all ingredients regardless of their freshness. They don't care and beware, because it could be the reason why the food is cheap.
The water that is used is of main concern, too. It may not be from a garrafon and you can fall victim to the Curse of Moctezuma. I always get a touch of diarrhea after dining out, even from American restaurants. I blame it on their use of tap water to clean and prepare food.
10. Health care in Mexico City
We did not find the need to obtain medical insurance after our move to Mexico City. The costs of doctor visits, medicines and 3 major medical emergencies still did not offset the cost of insurance. Insurance in Mexico is expensive and sometimes does not cover certain procedures.
However, do not panic if you find yourself in a bind, money-wise, while living in Mexico City because of some health problem. Mexico makes medical care available for everyone, including foreigners. The Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS), a publicly funded hospital, has hospitals throughout all of Mexico City.
I suggest you find a good Simi doctor for your medical needs. They will cost about $40 pesos and will give you check ups or refer you to a specialist.
11. Mother Nature in Mexico City
Earthquakes pose a definite risk to all who live in this big, beautiful, concrete jungle. While most happen unnoticed it is the ones that register a 5 or higher that cause concern in Mexico City.
We experienced the earthquake of 2017 and it was scary. We had endured a couple of other earthquakes in the past, but nothing like this one. My daughter and I had to walk for hours to get home from the south of the city because transportation services were not available.
Always have a family plan, such as where to meet in case family members find themselves at different points of the city. The aftermath of an earthquake can be felt for up to 8 days after the actual event and you may feel dizzy or think that it is shaking again.
Do not be alarmed, it is a normal to feel this after an earthquake. Some even resort to eating bolillos to take the scare away.
12. Weather is a mess in Mexico City
We can have all 4 seasons in one day and it will cause inconveniences. For instance, the rain will affect all services, from transport to your cell phone connection. It can be really annoying. Imagine trying to get an Uber outside a flooded metro station and you cannot get a signal. Most of the time I get fed up and just walk.
If you have to go out and because of all the changes in the weather throughout the day, you should prepare by leaving early and by packing a light jacket. But do not put that jacket on just yet. It is hot and really humid well until 3 in the afternoon and you will shower in your own sweat. After 3, the clouds move in and it gets chilly as the temperature drops.
You can get an idea of what the weather will by like, as well as the air quality, by clicking on this link. You can also take my word that the rain starts late in the evening, usually around 7 p.m. Please try to be home before to avoid getting wet and to stay out of the cold. Besides missing the rain, you will also dodge the daily "Let's see Who is the Tougher Hombre" telenovela caused from the frustration of trying to get home.
There is still more to learn
I have come to the conclusion that if you do not want to lose your head over life in Mexico, then you should trying thinking "out of the box". Whatever way you are thinking is the right way of doing things, just apply it "differently" and that will be the Mexican way. I know it is a bit harsh, but it has saved me many times.
You can also research further with my posts that talk about living in Mexico. This one in particular talks about not getting caught off-guard in Mexico or this one that talks about surviving Mexico just enough to not go loco.